The liberation of Mosul has started. The loosening of Daesh’s grip on Iraq’s second largest city represents for them an especially devastating blow. The day their flag is torn down will effectively spell the end of their ambitions in Iraq.
But what does the removal of Daesh mean for the people no longer living under their control? It is vital to listen to those with direct experience of suffering under these terrorists. They speak of unrelenting savagery, murder and a culture of fear.
One Iraqi woman described a memory of her uncovering her face just once in a restaurant at the request of her husband. The restaurant owner begged her husband to ask her to cover it again, knowing that if Daesh inspectors caught her, she would have been flogged.
A shop owner in the village of Arkaba, south of Mosul, speaks of being freed from Daesh’s “strategy of oppression”. He praises the Iraqi forces who have achieved this. “Thank God life has returned to normal” he says, “Schools are opening and we hope they will welcome new students”. The resilience of families and communities in these conditions (and their clear rejection of the alien values to which they were subjected) is an inspiration to us all, as is the compassion they feel for those still under Daesh domination. “We know how they are suffering because we suffered like them too” says one inhabitant of freed Arkarba.
But the retreat of Daesh and the magnificent recovery of the people they leave behind is not the whole story. The future and safety of Muslim families, everywhere not just in Iraq, will depend on such groups losing not just territory but the battle of ideas that’s fought out over the internet and in private conversations. No army can achieve this. Only we can.
We need to be strong together and vigilant too. We must stop them reaching into our communities, our homes, our bedrooms – to exert their influence. The people who have suffered directly under Daesh in Syria and Iraq are forcefully rejecting them. We must all do the same.
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