|Date: Apr 6, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Resistance efforts still key in post-Daesh Mosul: report|
|Gemma Fox| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: The nonviolent resistance efforts that were used to help break Daesh’s (ISIS) psychological occupation of Mosul are still crucial, even with the city’s liberation, the author of a new policy report argues – but security forces are failing to give such efforts proper recognition and instead remain dangerously suspicious of the local population. Al-Ghad radio station, once Daesh’s sole rival for Mosul’s airwaves, is now adapting to the city’s evolving needs. Broadcasting to Mosul since 2015, the station was a key form of resistance, running live programs where trapped civilians could call in, tell their stories and engage in debate.
In postliberation Mosul, it is still a crucial outlet for exasperated civilians to vent their frustrations.
“You now see people challenging the local and the national politicians, calling in and asking why has it been so long and the university is still flattened, why haven’t you cleaned up the streets of Old Mosul, why is this all taking so much time?” Mike Stevens, author of a report published Friday for the Britain-based Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, told The Daily Star.
This dialogue is critical, the report says, because festering grievances could create fertile ground for a resurgence in adversary narratives.
Faced with governmental inertia, resistance groups are also being proactive in trying to find solutions to the city’s new challenges. Al-Ghad’s team says it now wants to support community rebuilding and help with some of the city’s most intractable problems, such as skill gaps among the youth and joblessness.
Mohammad al-Hashimie, founder of Al-Ghad, said in an interview with The Daily Star that his team is investing in new entrepreneurial and civil-society projects, particularly focused on media-based activities. For one event, Facebook programmers came to Mosul to speak to people interested in social media and startups. “It was a great, sharing experience,” he said, “to have a visit from the guys behind Facebook, which was so symbolic for people who had lived under Daesh.”
The “Friends of Al-Ghad” Facebook page is also building a platform of grass-roots activism for the city. Set up as a support network and a space for community action, it now has more followers that the page for the Al-Ghad station. Through this forum, Hashimie said, civilians are now offering support and organizing volunteer projects.
But this positive energy, Stevens argued, “will soon expire if it is not matched by genuine improvement in local conditions and sincere government action.” Tens of thousands of homes remain uninhabitable, the majority of the city’s basic infrastructure is in ruins, schools are closed and the unemployed populace is becoming increasingly restless. Some 850,000 people were displaced, and as refugees are now returning in greater numbers to the city, there is an even greater strain on resources.
With widespread corruption, distrust of the local population and business racketeering rampant within the security forces, local authorities are doing little to enact real change.
“To them, Mosul is a city of collaborators,” the report says. A Federal Police officer interviewed would apparently “complain angrily that there was no resistance to Daesh.”
But the report, titled “Blood Between Us: Psychological Occupation and Resistance in Mosul,” details how activists, inspired by social media, would spray the Arabic letter “meem,” symbolizing the word “muqawama,” or “resistance” in Arabic, across the city in defiance of Daesh. Activists were killed for their rebellion but their contribution appears to have been overlooked.
Rather than acknowledge that Mosul’s residents did indeed resist, the local population continues to be targeted. Months after liberation, evidence continues to emerge of security forces’ abuse of local residents and summary executions of suspected Daesh members. The city was once in the media spotlight, but the international attention and scrutiny largely left along with the militants.
“If the sectarian wounds of Mosul are to heal rather than fester,” the report concludes, “the story of civilian resistance to Daesh must be told.”