First Published: 2017-03-19

Mosul families go against the tide to return home
Samir Hamid, 33 family members have decided to go against the tide to return home to Wadi Hajar district in Mosul, currently in midst of intense fighting.
Middle East Online

Man cries as he carries his daughter while running from an Islamic State-controlled part of Mosul

MOSUL - Tens of thousands have flowed out of war-wracked Mosul in recent weeks, but Samir Hamid and 33 family members have decided to go against the tide to return home.

"We stayed with relatives for a week and now we're going back home," says the father-of-five, who has travelled with his extended family from a small town outside Mosul.

Iraqi forces have retaken several neighbourhoods in west Mosul from the Islamic State group since starting an assault last month to recapture the jihadists' last major urban bastion in the country.

More than 150,000 people have fled their homes in west Mosul, the Iraqi authorities say, of which two-thirds have found shelter in camps near the city where they receive food, blankets and foam mattresses.

But Hamid says he, his five brothers and their families -- 34 people in total -- are heading home to the Wadi Hajar district after finding there was no space for them in a displaced camp in the Hamam al-Alil area.

"We couldn't find any room at the camp," says the man in his thirties.

"There are too many people there -- three to four families per tent," says Hamid, dressed entirely in black and his plastic sandals covered in mud.

- Biscuits, milk and butter -

As they approach a hill to climb on the city outskirts, Hamid's family grab small metal carts abandoned by civilians who have fled the city in the opposite direction.

They pile on their bags crammed with belongings.

A woman in the family, her face covered with a black face veil, struggles to advance under the weight of a dirty beige blanket she carries. She lifts the veil from her face.

"We'll be better off at home," says Hamid, who has brought biscuits, milk and butter in his bags.

When Hamid and his family fled Mosul, they escaped what they described as a living hell.

"We hung between life and death. There was nothing to eat, nothing to drink. When we fell asleep, I'd look at my children and wonder which one would die or be wounded," says Hamid.

His eldest son stands behind him, a beany hat pulled over his head. He is 12 years old, but looks half his age.

"We're going back because we were told the situation was much better, that there wasn't any more fighting," Hamid says.

Like him, many other Mosul residents dream of returning to a normal life.

- 'Only source of income' -

In the Al-Jawsak neighbourhood, residents have draped white flags at the entrance of small houses on the edge of streets strewn with rubble.

Luay Adnan, 34, reopened the family's corner shop four days ago.

"I was at home with nowhere else to go. This shop is our only source of income," he says in the dark interior of his store.

The bullet-ridden white shutters are closed, and the front window has been shattered to shards in the fighting.

"I opened up to allow people to shop, so that life can return to normal," he says.

But many of his shelves are empty. On just a few, he has laid out items freshly ferried in from Hamam al-Alil: tomato sauce, dried vermicelli, bulghur wheat, white beans, oil, eggs and tea.

"There's so much missing. The shop's empty. We don't have any chicken, meat or mobile phone top-up cards," says Adnan, who wears a cap on his salt-and-pepper hair.

Ahmad, a neighbour in his forties with a greying beard, drops in to buy some mineral water, eggs and potatoes.

Before IS overran Mosul in 2014, "the shop was full. You could find whatever you wanted," says the customer, wearing a grey-coloured traditional long robe.

His 13-year-old son Mohammed waits timidly by his side, a white bandage stretched around his forehead, where he has been wounded by shelling.

 

UN Security Council calls for Polisario pullback from Guerguerat

UK warns of ‘increased level of terrorist activity’

Merkel warns EU-Turkey ties 'severely hit' by Ankara developments

Pope Francis flies to Egypt as 'pilgrim of peace'

420 tonnes of plastic bags seized in year in Morocco since ban

Erdogan to rejoin Turkey ruling party next week

Germany urges EU not to break off Turkey accession talks

OPCW says chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria

Netanyahu slams German foreign minster as 'insensitive'

Erdogan hopes for 'new page' with US under Trump

UN envoy to Libya to visit Sudan for peace talks

Tunisian PM booed out of town hall meet

Russian spy ship sinks off Turkish coast

London police arrest ‘terror act’ knifeman by parliament

Palestinians strike in support of protesting prisoners

Two Saudi soldiers killed in rocket attack near Yemen border

German soldier plots attack under refugee disguise

Iraq forces retake town of Hatra from IS

Syria accuses Israel of strike near Damascus airport

10 dead after strikes on rebel-held hospitals in Syria

Turkey’s AKP to hold special congress readmitting Erdogan

EU reviews Libya request for naval equipment

Jail terms over death of Moroccan fishmonger

UN appoints Syrian Olympic swimmer as ambassador

Bahraini activist on hunger strike behind bars

Calls on Saudi social media for jobless protest

Tunisian coastguards no match for high-speed smugglers

US wants 'strong, democratic' Turkey: ambassador

Israeli tank trades shots with Hamas in Gaza

Syria says France 'hiding truth' about chemical attack

NATO chief warns Turkey to respect ‘rule of law’

Exiled Turkish journalist urges EU to confront Erdogan

Mass funeral for dozens slain in Syria bus attack

Qatar insists Baghdad had ‘full knowledge’ of hostage deal

UN eyes new Yemen peace talks

Erdogan resumes Gulen arrests after referendum win

Turkey opposition heads to European court to challenge referendum

Turkey says informed US, Russia prior to Kurdish strikes

Iraqi forces liberate ancient city of Hatra from IS

Saudi fire stops explosives-laden boat from Yemen

50 Syria migrants stranded on Morocco-Algeria border

Libya asks EU for patrol boats to stem migrant wave

Bangladesh approves Saudi-funded mosque project

German Chancellor regrets Israel snub of foreign minister

Global leaders call for ridding world 'forever' of chemical arms