In a sign that normal life is gradually returning to Ramadi, a city that Iraqi forces liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) earlier this year, Anbar University is set to resume classes in the city this fall.
The university closed its doors in April 2015, when ISIL first occupied the city, and was forced to move its headquarters to a temporary location at the university's college of agriculture in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.
"The university council decided to move from the temporary location to Ramadi to resume its activities there, especially with the stability of the security situation in the city and the return of service facilities and life to normal," said Anbar University spokesman Abdul Rahman al-Fahdawi.
University officials decided to re-open a number of colleges in Ramadi for the 2016-2017 academic year after several buildings were repaired, he said.
"About half the colleges and institutions of the university suffered damage" during ISIL's occupation, he told Diyaruna, and that the former headquarters of the university suffered significant damage and has yet to be "completely secured from explosive devices and mines planted by terrorists".
The re-opening of colleges would be gradual, al-Fahdawi said, starting with Education and Applied Science, with more opening up before the beginning of the semester in September.
"We invite all our university students who returned to Ramadi to fill out the attendance resumption and registration forms," he said.
Al-Fahdawi said the registration process started in the middle of July and would continue for an entire month, and that the temporary university headquarters in Baghdad would remain open until all of those displaced returned to Anbar.
The university, the UN, and the national fund for reconstruction plan to implement 48 projects aimed at restoring the university's destroyed institutions, but "these projects will start after university buildings are fully secured from explosives," al-Fahdawi explained.
He stressed that the re-opening of Anbar University is a key factor for the stability of Ramadi since it means the return of at least 25,000 displaced including students, employees and university members with their families.
Preparing for citizens return
Ramadi Mayor Ibrahim al-Awsaj told Diyaruna that local authorities have requested the assistance of all relevant international organizations, donor countries and government agencies to begin the reconstruction of Anbar University and other educational institutions in the city.
"We started to rehabilitate many of the university buildings in Ramadi, and we hope to finish the work before the beginning of the next academic year in order to provide a good learning environment for students who will begin attendance," he said.
"We are working on preparing many schools to accommodate students and absorb the large number of displaced families that might return to the city," he said, adding that 40,000 families have already returned.
Mohammed Obaid Makhlaf Mohammed, a member of the Anbar Provincial Council, praised the resumption of classes at Anbar University.
"This is an important development and something that marks a positive return towards the consolidation of life's necessities in Ramadi," he said.
He stressed the need for accelerating the reconstruction of the city's infrastructure and public services since many service facilities are still damaged.
"We currently have a single qualified bridge, which is al-Qaim Bridge on Sitteen Street, in Ramadi. Hula Bridge will be rebuilt soon. With the start of the study season, we will need the rehabilitation of other bridges to facilitate the movement of students and people and to provide services to them," Mohammed said.