by Mrinalini Santhanam, UNDP Iraq

Situated on the Tigris River’s western side, Old City in Mosul was one of Iraq’s cultural, trade, and economic centres for a long time. Before the ISIL conflict, the city boasted of rich history, fond memories, and a bright future.

Today, of course, this has changed. The conflict left most of the population with damaged homes and infrastructure.

To support Iraqis build back their homes and city, through the Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP is rehabilitating houses that were destroyed during the conflict. Until now, over 6,500 have been completed in West Mosul.

While walking through the narrow lanes of Old City’s Al-Khatoniya and Sheikh Abu Ola neighbourhood, we passed some of the recently rehabilitated houses. The families living in these houses have experienced all kinds of memories – the good and bad. Some of them share their fondest and toughest ones with us.

“I hope to live here as it is our ancestorial home. For over 200 years, my forefathers have lived, grown and made many memories under this roof,” shares Edham Theyab, 64-year-old father of eight who lives in Al-Khatoniya neighbourhood.

During the conflict, Edham lost most of his closest friends from the neighbourhood with who he cherishes his fondest memories. The house’s ceiling experienced the most damage, pushing Edam to leave and rent a house in Al-Zengeli. He returned to his newly rehabilitated home with his family in October last year. “I hope to cherish the past and make new memories going forward,” he adds.

“From my children’s first steps to their laughter, the house has seen some our dearest memories along with us. But unfortunately, we lost most parts of the house during the conflict,” Umma says.

Not far from Edham, in the same neighbourhood, Umma Mohammad (name changed), a 43-year-old mother of four, has lived in Mosul all her life. Running a six-member household, her husband is the primary homeowner.

Her house is currently in the process of being completed. On looking ahead, “I am waiting for the roof to be completed as it is my favourite part of the house. I will then play with my grandchildren there,” she shares.

Missing his neighbours, he shares a special message for them, “I wish to see the old residents of this neighbourhood return and work together to rebuild the lives we lost.”

For 63-year-old Abdulmotalib Zaki Mohyaldun, the recently appointed mukhtar (head of locality) of Al-Khatoniya, seeing his birth home rehabilitated makes him emotional. “Even after the house was damaged, I continued to live here as this is my only home. My house was targeted almost every day with mortars,” he remembers. To preserve memories, Abul bought the house from his grandfather. While he is not attending to mayor duties, he spends his time in the library reading and writing.

To date, UNDP has rehabilitated 38 houses in Al-Khatoniya with over 400 more homes in the pipeline.

“I am counting down the days till I can go back as we left our soul behind in the house. There are days when I come to watch them renovate and feel nostalgic about all the good times my family in the house,” she says with a smile.

In Sheikh Abu Ola, another neighbourhood within the Old City, 65-year-old widow Ghaniya Mohammad Ahmed recollects some of her most memorable moments with her family. “I have seen my children grow up under this roof.” While her sons moved out after marriage, she still lives with her daughter’s family and her. Despite the trauma, Ghaniya is determined to return home and make new memories

During the conflict, Ghaniya was forced to relocate with her children when sections of her house were damaged from a rocket attack. She showed us the room which used to house many family gatherings and festivals, along with an arched entrance that was reduced to rubble. “People had to rescue us as we were buried under half-a-meter of rubble,” she recounts.

UNDP is rehabilitating Ghaniya’s house, but she can’t move in yet as main sections of the house are still to be completed. But she is hopeful. “I’m grateful for UNDP helping me get my family back on their feet,” she says. Till now, 66 houses in Sheikh Abu Ola have been rehabilitated.

The rehabilitation of houses in the two neighbourhoods was possible due to the generous support from Germany and the United Kingdom.

Implemented through the Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP is rehabilitating over 43,000 houses across Iraq, to support greater number of returns.


Photos: UNDP Arabic

Story originally published on UNDP Arabic here.