Saddam Hussein's legacy is alive in Mosul


When you want to understand the anger of the citizens of Mosul (Iraq's second largest city) towards the central government after the eviction of Islamic State fighters from most of the city you just have to talk to Saddam Hussein. Of-course this does elude to the ferocious dictator, but a local teacher who is still proudly showing off an identity card with the name his parents have named him forty five years ago in honour of the former leader of Iraq;“My name is Saddam and all three of my sons are named Saddam because I love him, Saddam was the best commander in Iraq” he said.

According to a press report and general public opinion in Western states, Saddam, who was ousted in 2003 by a international coalition led by United States, is considered a person hated by the Shiites and Kurds for the brutality he inflicted on their communities. However in Mosul, where most of the Sunni population feel that  authorities in Baghdad does not respect them, is still loved. When the jihādist Islamic State took over Mosul three years ago, supporters of the former president were among the first to welcome the militant group before most of the population turned against extremists because of their draconian rule.

Saddam (the teacher) said he did not support this notion. He argued on the one hand that is was undoubtedly true that he lost his salary because of the jihādist organisation when Baghdad stopped sending money to pay government employees in areas controlled by Islamic State. However, on the other hand, like many in Mosul, he believes that the government is undertaking a lengthy discrimination process when dealing with the Sunni provinces of Iraq. This is considerably unfair in the eyes of Saddam. 

When the fighting reached his home he fled with his family to a camp created by the United Nations after which he returned to his old home to find that he had been evicted. He cannot pay the rent because he no longer paid by the government and, as with countless others in the city, his family is now homeless. “I lost everything, I cannot feed my family and pay the rent anymore, but I do not want to go with my family to the camp again” he said.

The battle for the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State is in its seventh month and has became the biggest battleground in Iraq since the 2003 Iraq War began. Many areas of the city have been under full government control since late last year but there is no water or electricity yet. Authorities have put up new paintings with photographs of the city’s historic landmarks or the Tigris River with a message urging citizens to return to normal life. However beneath it there are also Shiite religious slogans and graffiti government forces daubed on walls and buildings with paint. For many Sunni residents, they feel that they are under occupation by Iraqi Security Forces and supporting militia groups.

Politics has been dominated by sectarian and political groups” said Wael Faisal, an electronic hardware vendor from the city, referring to slogans on the walls. “Baghdad has not implemented any development projects in Mosul since 2003, that is the reality.” he added.

With the persistence of this situation and the absence of a salary for hundreds of citizens families are now forced to beg for food in mosques.  More than 100 former workers gathered in eastern Mosul on Wednesday and complained they had not been paid for up to six months. “We do not have water and electricity, this is the political corruption which we are suffering under.” Faisal said.

Many now say the situation will create fertile ground for the emergence of another militant group similar to Islamic State in Mosul, a city which has become a centre of Sunni resistance since the fall of Saddam's regime. "I think the future will be worse because the central government will not care about Mosul again” said Fernas Taleb, the owner of a shop selling light bulbs in eastern Mosul. “If this does not change, there will be another group with a different name and with different people who may be embroiled in a new wave of violence” he added.

An aide in the governor of Nineveh, based in Mosul, said the authorities were operating non-stop. “We have restored electricity in some areas for a few hours and will gradually improve, we are also recovering water, but some parts of the system have been destroyed.We work day and night to serve the citizens, but our potential is limited because the support we get from Baghdad is very limited, we need more support” he stated grimly.

Nino Orto