8 years since the end of the war with ISIS and the destruction has not left villages in northern Iraq

In the Iraqi dialect, the word “mako” means “nothing”. Issa often repeats this by saying, “There is no electricity, there is no house.” After eight years of fierce fighting with the terrorist organization ISIS, the reconstruction process is still stagnating in its village in northern Iraq.

Issa Al-Zamzoum lives in the agricultural village of Habash, 180 km north of the capital, Baghdad. The man, his wife (Um Warda) and their five children live in a house that is a concrete structure, part of which collapsed during the war in 2014, but was not separated from the other parts of the building. In one room a hen watches her chicks, in another old sleeping mats are piled up against a wall.

Issa’s main house was destroyed, and the place where he now lives was given to him. “There is nothing here, no electricity, no work, nothing,” said the 42-year-old. “Since the war until now we have not seen any construction or services.”

A consultant in the Salah al-Din governor, to whom the town of Habash belongs, who prefers to remain anonymous, justifies the delay in the reconstruction work by the extent of the governor’s “expansion”. “We still can not arrange things 100%,” he told AFP.

In the village of Habash, the houses were destroyed or semi-destroyed, by the dozens, as if the war had just ended. The village pays the high price for the siege imposed on ISIS in the summer of 2014 on the town of Amerli, which is located about 10 kilometers from the village of Habash.

At the time, extremists were in control of the city of Mosul and other countries in northern Iraq. They advanced south and besieged Amerli. At the end of August of the same year, the Iraqi army, the Popular Mobilization and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces broke up the siege of Amerli, the town of Habash, and the nearby towns that the militants used as bases. At the end of 2017, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army, with the support of the international coalition, declared “victory” over the organization.

“Our life is not life”

But the story did not end with the end of the fighting.

According to Human Rights Watch, “militias, volunteer fighters and members of the Iraqi security forces looted the property of civilians who fled the fighting during the raid on Amerli after the 2014 siege and during the raids.” “They burned the houses and shops of the Sunnis living in the villages, and they used explosives and heavy equipment to destroy buildings owned by individuals or entire villages,” she added.

Today, “humanitarian needs are enormous” in the Tuz Khurmatu district, where Habash is located, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. The NGO added in a statement to AFP that about “20,000 displaced people live” in the district, and spoke of an “urgent” need for water and electricity.

Some, according to the organization, also do not have identification papers, because in order to obtain them, some residents experience “difficulties in clearing their page of any security suspicions” due to suspicions of their connection with ISIS.

Like Issa al-Zamzoum and his neighbor Abd al-Karim Nuri, the majority of Habash’s residents are Sunni Arabs. Nouri says: “This life is not ours. I do not have a job. I have five sheep to make a living from. ” He added, addressing one of the region’s representatives, “He said he would do the reconstruction, but he did nothing.”

ISIS cells

However, Nouri does not talk about his sectarian affiliation, nor about sectarianism, which became a sensitive topic in Iraq, where tens of thousands of people were killed during the sectarian conflict between 2006 and 2008.

However, four and a half years after the fall of ISIS, some Sunnis say they are still subject to harassment and discrimination. A US State Department report published in 2021 stated that Sunni officials had “forced the displacement of Sunnis” by the Popular Mobilization, and the “arbitrary arrests” of members of their sect “suspected of their association with ISIS ”condemned.


Without naming the “ISIS” organization, the official in Salah al-Din governor spoke of “security issues” which are also delaying the reconstruction work. While “Habash” got rid of ISIS, the ghost of its cells is still about 15 kilometers away in the areas in the north.

Along the road leading to the village of Bir Ahmed, the Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of Shiite armed factions now affiliated with the official Iraqi forces, deployed security barriers and increased the alert level.

One of the officers said: “The situation in Bir Ahmed is beyond our control and beyond the control of the army.” “If you want, go in, but I can not guarantee you will come back,” he said.

• While “Habash” got rid of the “ISIS” organization, the ghost of its cells is still about 15 kilometers away in the areas in the north.

• “Humanitarian needs are enormous” in the Tuz Khurmatu district, where “Habash” is located, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. There are about 20,000 displaced people living in the district, who urgently need water and electricity.

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