Resentment festers in Mosul: just ask Saddam Hussein


Reuters

* Residents complain of marginalisation by Shi'ite-led
government
    * Water, power not running in Mosul areas retaken by
military
    * Some Sunnis supported Islamic State when it seized Mosul
in 2014

    By Ulf LaessingMOSUL, Iraq, April 20 (Reuters) - If you want to hear the
resentment people of Mosul feel now that Iraqi forces have
driven Islamic State out of most of the city, you should talk to
Saddam Hussein.
    Not the dictator, but the Mosul schoolteacher, who proudly
shows off an identity card bearing the name which his parents
gave him in the ruler's honour 45 years ago, and which he passed
on to his sons.
    The original Saddam, a Sunni Muslim who was toppled in a
U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and hanged three years later on an
Iraqi army base for crimes against humanity, is a hate figure to
the Shi'ites who make up the majority of Iraqis, violently
repressed under his rule.
    But here in Mosul, where most people are Sunnis who feel
disrespected by the authorities in Baghdad, he is still beloved,
just one example of the many ways in which the local narrative
veers sharply from that of most of the rest of the country.
    "My name is Saddam and all three of my sons are called
Saddam, because I love him," said the teacher. "Saddam was the
best leader Iraq has ever had."
    When Islamic State fighters swept into Mosul in 2014,
supporters of the ousted leader were among those who welcomed
the Sunni militants as protectors against the Shi'ite
authorities. A group of ex-Saddam era military officers pledged
support for the Islamic State caliphate.
    Most residents of Mosul turned against the militants during
their two years of harsh rule, and the teacher said he never
supported them. But few here trust the central authorities that
have now returned.
    The teacher lost his salary under Islamic State when Baghdad
stopped sending money to pay wages of government workers in
territory held by the militants. Like many in Mosul, he is now
embroiled in a long vetting process to get back on the payroll,
which he considers discriminatory and unfair.
    When fighting reached his district, he fled with his family
to a U.N. camp. He has now come back to his old home, but the
landlord is evicting him. With no salary, he has no way to pay
rent. The family will soon be homeless, with nowhere to go but
back to the camp.
     "I have lost everything. I can't feed my family anymore,"
he said. "I can't pay my rent anymore but I don't want to move
with my family to a camp again. I'm really tired of this life."

    SLOGANS
    The biggest land battle in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, the
battle to free Mosul of Islamic State is now in its seventh
month. Much of the city has been fully under government control
since late last year, yet there is no water and no electricity.
    The authorities have put up new billboards with pictures of
the city's landmarks or the Tigris river, and messages such as:
"Dear citizens, we urge you to get back to your daily life."
    But beneath them, the walls bear Shi'ite religious slogans
spray painted by government troops, which Sunni residents say
makes them feel like they are living under occupation.
    "Politics are dominated by sectarian and political groups,"
said Wael Faisal, an electronics seller, referring to the
graffiti. "We haven't any development projects from Baghdad in
Mosul since 2003."
    With salaries still going unpaid, families are forced to beg
for food at mosques. More than 100 former state prison workers
gathered in eastern Mosul on Wednesday complaining they had not
been paid for up to six months.
    "We have no water and power. This is the political
corruption we have been suffering from," said Faisal.
    Many now say that the conditions will create the breeding
ground for yet another radical group in Mosul, which became a
centre for the Sunni insurgency after the U.S.-led invasion.
    "I think the future will be worse because the central
government will again not care about Mosul," said Farnas Talib,
a light bulb shop owner in eastern Mosul, which was declared
"fully liberated" in January.
    "What is Daesh?" he said, using an Arabic acronym for
Islamic State. "Daesh came because of a lack of interest from
Baghdad in Mosul. Unless this changes there will be another
group, with a different name, different people, maybe no
beards."
    An aide to the governor of the Nineveh province of which
Mosul is the capital said authorities were working non-stop.
    "We have restarted power in some areas for some hours and it
will gradually improve further," he said. "We are also restoring
water, but some parts of the system got damaged."
    "We are working day and night to serve citizens but our
possibilities are limited because support from Baghdad is very
limited. We need more support," he said.

 (Editing by Peter Graff)
 ((Ulf.Laessing@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: follow me
on twitter @ulflaessing))

Keywords: MIDEAST CRISIS/IRAQ MOSUL SUNNIS (PIX)



This article appears in: Politics


More from Reuters

Subscribe






See Reuters News

Follow on:








Research Brokers before you trade

Want to trade FX?