Mosul celebrates first Eid without Daesh in years

People in the Iraqi city of Mosul celebrated their first Muslim Eid holiday without Daesh in years on Sunday after the militants were ejected from much of the city, and hoped the battle to recapture the remaining area would soon be over.

Children gathered in squares on the eastern side of the city. Some played on old swings and others with toy guns and rifles, which were among the toys allowed by Daesh militants after they took over the city in June 2014.

The militants implemented an extreme version of Islam which associated toys with a face, like dolls, with idolatry. They encouraged youngsters to train on weapons and changed text books to reflect their military ideology. Children were asked to add up bombs or bullets in maths exercises.

Eid prayers were allowed under Daesh but festivities were not.

But for many, Sunday’s Eid celebrations were overshadowed by the destruction of their historic leaning minaret, blown up by the militants on Wednesday, and fears for thousands of civilians trapped in the Old City in western Mosul still under Daesh control.

“It won’t be real Eid before we return home,” said a man in his sixties, displaced from the western side of the city, across the Tigris river, where fighting continues.

Some expressed sadness over the destruction of the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri mosque and its leaning 150-foot (45-metre) minaret.

“Eid is not the same,” said a man who declined to give his name as fear is still present even though Iraqi forces dislodged the insurgents from the eastern part of the city months ago.

Iraqi forces took the eastern side from Daesh in January, after 100 days of fighting, and started attacking the western side in February. The militants are now besieged in Mosul’s Old City.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement:

As our heroic forces are closer to declaring final victory over the Daesh gangs, I offer my most sincere congratulations for Eid al-Fitr

A US-led international coalition is providing air and ground support in the 8-month-old offensive to drive the militants from their de facto capital in Iraq.

About 350 Daesh fighters, most of them non-Iraqis, are defending their remaining stronghold in Mosul’s densely populated Old City, an Iraqi general said on Sunday. He expected the battle for the city to end in days.

Umid Ali Halef (L), a man who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, shows a piece of breadcrumb as he sits on back of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017. Haled said: him and his family were stuck in their home due to a Daesh blockade and ate breadcrumbs to survive for 21 days. Civilians who fled the conflicted or Daesh blocked areas reached out to Iraqi army controlled Zencili neighborhood of Mosul and were transported from this area with armored vehicles as operation to liberate Iraq’s Mosul from Daesh continues [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
A woman, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, sits on back of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
A woman, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, pours water into a lid inside of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
Children, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighborhood in west, sit inside of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
Civilians, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, stand near an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
Omer Remzi, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, shows family pictures in front of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
Omer Remzi, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, shows family pictures in front of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
Omer Remzi, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, shows family pictures in front of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
Omer Remzi, who fled from the conflicts at al-Shifa neighbourhood in west, shows family pictures in front of an armored vehicle in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
A dead body, left in a street, is being placed inside of a body bag by Iraqi army members in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]
A dead body, left in a street, is being placed inside of a body bag by Iraqi army members in Mosul, Iraq on June 12, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]