Oldest market in Mosul brought back to life after destruction

Iraqi vendors wait for customers inside a trade center, which was recently rebuilt, reopened for the first time after the war, in the west side of Mosul city, northern Iraq, Apr. 28, 2019. EPA-EFE/AMMAR SALIH

MOSUL.– Mosul’s oldest market is starting to come back to life over two years after the extremists from the Islamic State terror organization were expelled from what was once their de facto capital in Iraq.

Fabrics of all colors flutter in the market’s stores, where most of the pieces are sold wholesale, although the inhabitants complain that the reconstruction of the market has been funded by locals themselves without help from the central government.

«We have rebuilt it and gave the stores back to its merchants,» Radwan al-Shabkhun, the owner of one of the Bab al-Sarai trade center establishments, told Efe. Al-Shabkhun’s store has been in his family for 411 years.

The market is located in western Mosul, which was almost totally ruined after a nine-month military offensive that ended in July 2017 with the expulsion of the terror group from the city.

The authorities «exempted the tenant merchants from paying the rent for six months to encourage them to return to the market, to encourage other merchants and to revive the commercial movement, which was suspended during the war years,» Al-Shabkhun explained.

Samir al-Nuaimi, a resident of the historic center of Mosul, the last area in Iraqi forces backed by the United States-led international coalition captured from the IS, was strolling through the commercial hub.

«The best news I’ve heard is the inauguration of Bab al-Sarai and Bab al-Tub market after its reconstruction,» Al-Nuaimi told Efe.

Currently, the security situation in Mosul has improved, although there are still sporadic attacks carried out by IS sleeper cells.

For his part, Bashir Nasrala, owner of one of the stores, said: «two years later, the markets of the western part of Mosul were abandoned but with our personal effort and that of other inhabitants and the owner of the building, we managed to rebuild our stores.»

Another fabric-store owner named Omar Emad Shokr confirmed to Efe that the Iraqi federal government participated in the «reopening of the market,» which took place on Sunday.

Mosul is divided into two parts by the Tigris River. The eastern part that was the first to be liberated and did not suffer the same damage as the western half, where thousands of people were killed or injured, though no official tally has been released thus far.

Mosul’s mayor, Zuhair al-Araji, told Efe that the city council formed a committee for the reconstruction of the Mosul, in addition to an antiquities and urban planning directory that is set to be in charge of granting construction permits, according to criteria of a style dating back to hundreds of years.

Al-Araji said the committee agreed with the managers of the stores that they will have the freedom to carry out work inside their establishments, although they will have to respect «the façades, which will follow a criterion according to what the city architectural heritage committee would decide.»

Al-Araji criticized the central government of Iraq because «it does not do what it should do for the inhabitants affected by the war. There is great resentment felt by the part of the people of the city for not receiving compensations.»

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