Mosul, Iraq – If seen from afar, Mosul’s old town could be compared with a sandy beach.
It has been more than eight months since the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
While rebuilding efforts have begun, Iraq’s second-largest city continues to struggle to get back on track.
Iraqis have slowly returned to what is left of their homes or shops.
Many say the central government is too slow in its reconstruction efforts as it continues to target ISIL fighters still in the region.
Mosul‘s civil defence is coordinating with NGOs to clean up the Old City, but according to Abdel Satar al-Habbow, director of Mosul Municipality, it might take years to fully reconstruct the city.
In the areas most affected by the conflict, residents say they are having a hard time trusting the government. Most houses are still without electricity and water. Many homes have not been demined and are unsafe for people to return.
The cleanup efforts also include finding and identifying bodies under the rubble.
“It’s hard to know who is whom,” Rabie Ibrahim Hassan, the chief of Mosul’s civil defence, told Al Jazeera.
“We don’t have the equipment, personnel or access to forensic technologies,” he said.
“When we find a body, we look for an ID close by and assume that it belongs to it.”
According to Hassan, civilian bodies are given normal funerals, but the bodies of ISIL fighters are usually left behind.
Many civilians were executed before ISIL fled or died while trapped between air strikes and snipers from all sides. Hassan estimates that there might be around 5,000 bodies still scattered throughout the city.