Hawzah News Agency (Mosul, Iraq) - Some clutch water pipes or smoke cigarettes while families descend on parks along the Tigris River and shops remain open late at night. Residents of Iraq’s second largest city are enjoying their first Ramadan since the Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) terrorist group was defeated.
For more than three years under Daesh (or ISIS)'s draconian rules, the people of Mosul were deprived of observing festive Ramadan traditions.
"The holy month became strange to us because of the restrictions imposed by Daesh terrorists," said Mosul municipality employee Asma Yassin. “We were banned from exercising the simplest Ramadan rituals and traditions, which are inherited over hundreds of years.”
“Ramadan this year is definitely different. The people of Mosul are determined to celebrate the way they did before Daesh. Life goes on despite the calamities that we have been through,” said Yassin, who lost her husband in shelling during the battle to liberate the city.
Under Daesh, gatherings were prohibited and many Ramadan traditions were banned. Anyone who defied Daesh’s rules was severely punished, sometimes with lashings. Some violators were executed.
Ali Zanoun, a 30-year-old Mosul resident, contends that Daesh's intolerance provoked strong reactions from the mostly conservative society in Mosul, which is rejecting any form of radicalism.
“The militants’ restrictive practices are the reason for that. The displays of joy and amusement are obvious in most parts of the city, although many families are still living in dire conditions after losing their homes and being displaced,” Zanoun said.
The relatively normal life in Mosul is concentrated in the newest part of the city that did not sustain as much damage as the old city, which was largely reduced to rubble.
Ramadan is not as joyful for Oum Dalia, a widow and mother of five children whose husband was killed by the militants and her home flattened in the battle.
She does, however, say Ramadan is less stressful than the rest of the year thanks to the food assistance she receives from charities. “Outside Ramadan, we strive to bring food to the table, my elder son and myself. Moreover, we need to secure the money to pay the rent,” she said.
Oum Dalia said she misses the “true spirit of Ramadan” in her old neighborhood when the fasting month brought families and communities closer together.
Obvious differences exist between Ramadan celebrations on the two sides of Mosul. In western Mosul, which was liberated in July 2017 and contains the Old City, Ramadan is barely noticeable because of the destruction of buildings and displacement of residents. Celebrations in eastern Mosul, liberated in January 2017, were much more visible, with many shopping and enjoying the month.
Eastern Mosul has witnessed increased stability and activity since its liberation. This is the second time the area celebrated Ramadan without the presence of Daesh. Many famous Ramadan traditions have been revived, in particular the messaharati, the drummers who wake people up before the beginning of the fast to eat and whose performances were banned under Daesh because the group viewed it as heretical.
Despite improvements, the legacy of Daesh (or ISIS) is still visible, including destroyed homes and infrastructure, the lack of services and the general poverty.
Daesh won’t be forgotten soon because of the great physical and moral damage it caused to the people of Mosul.