Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city after the capital Baghdad, has been captured by the Islamic State on June 10, 2014. Since then, the city has been facing several human rights violations. Many women belonging to the Yazidis minority have been slaughtered, sold as slaves, raped and many others have been killed.
On October 16, 2016 a joint regional and international coalition led by the Iraqi’s armed forces, alongside with Kurdish as well as Sunni and Shia militias, has launched a large-scale military operation to retake Mosul and defeat Isis. As the de facto capital of the caliphate, the “Battle for Mosul” may signify a dramatic shift in Isis’s strategy in the region, and the desirable reunification of Iraq. However, after three days of fighting as the operation gets under way, many concerns arise regarding future scenarios and the immediate outcomes.
With more than 3 million people internally displaced, the Iraqi government is likely going to face serious challenges in terms of providing psychological and material support to all those who have lived under the agony of Isis’ actions. Moreover, in a nation historically divided by religious beliefs and cleavages belonging, the retake of Mosul will test al-Mālikī’s ability to reunify a country separated by years of war and poverty.
Due to its proximity with the independent Iraqi Kurdish region, the Peshmerga, the formal Kurdish armed group, have always played an active role in the struggle to retake Mosul. Previous to its fall, they had warned Iraq’s prime minister al-Mālikī’ of Isis’ imminent attack. Yet, no action was taken by Iraq’s government to stop the Islamic State’s advance into the city. Despite some general speculations, it is most unlikely that Barzani, the former Iraqi Kurdish government’s president, may make any sort of claim on the city. However, their involvement in the battle will be surely vital to gain decisive ground over Isis counterattacks.
Since the US invasion in 2003 and the toppling of Iraq regime, Iraq has gone through a “lebanonization” process, which witnessed the capital falling into a tragic battle ground for politicized religious demands. Discriminated under the Saddam regime, Shias regained seats in the parliament thanks to the election of al-Mālikī’. Therefore, as a mostly populated sunni city, the Arab sunni militias, backed by Turkey, are to play a crucial role, in order to avoid any kind of Shia revenge on the unharmed population.
However, despite the complex political outlook, the real challenges will be faced by the civilian population. Analysts have esteemed that the re-conquest of Mosul may take approximately two months. Moreover, The UN has warned that more than one million civilians are still trapped in Mosul, and that they might be used as human shields from Isis members. In this uncertain military outcome, the “Battle for Mosul” will surely cost many human lives, and to regain trust from those who have been suffering slavery and tortures, Iraq will have to question its capacity to act as a united country.