Iraq News

Life in liberated al-Sharqat returns to normal

By Khalid al-Taie

Iraqi forces raise the Iraqi flag on top of al-Sharqat's general hospital after driving 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' militants from the city in September. [Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence]

Iraqi forces raise the Iraqi flag on top of al-Sharqat's general hospital after driving 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' militants from the city in September. [Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence]

Barely a few days have passed since Iraqi forces liberated the city of al-Sharqat from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), and life has already started to return to normal.

Schools have resumed this week, state employees are back to work, markets are bustling with activity, and water and medical services have been reinstated, residents tell Diyaruna.

On September 22nd, the army and tribal forces liberated al-Sharqat in Salaheddine province in a "swift" operation, mayor Ali Dawdah told Diyaruna.

"The liberation operation was unique as it did not take long and did not result in a large wave of displacement," he said. "Families mostly stayed in their homes as directed by the security forces."

No more fear

Public facilities sustained minor damages, Dawdah said, noting that the city's 162 schools, the public hospital, health centres and municipal departments are all intact and do not require major rehabilitation.

The few facilities that were blown up by the extremists in the period following their invasion of the city two years ago included the police station, the municipality building, the college of basic education and the industrial preparatory school, he said.

Various government sectors have already started reconstruction operations.

"We started operating the al-Sharqat water station at full capacity and drinking water now reaches all areas of the city," he said.

"There also is intensive work to repair damaged electricity gridlines and within days we will be able to restore power to all homes," he added.

Meanwhile, police and civil defence forces have resumed their work in providing protection to citizens, and the medical staff and service sector employees have started returning as well.

"Life has quickly returned to normal," Dawdah said. "Markets and shops re-opened their doors and people returned to their jobs and daily affairs without fear of the oppression and tyranny of the terrorists."

The joy of residents after the liberation of their city was "indescribable", he said.

"Trapped residents welcomed their security forces with greetings and cheering, and the terrorism that had weighed down on them had become a thing of the past," he added.

Displaced residents return

More than 12,000 al-Sharqat families had fled the city for displacement centres near Tikrit since mid-June, after ISIL stepped up its level of aggression as Iraqi forces were drawing near.

Of those, around 500 families have already returned to the city, Dawdah said, adding that he expected the pace of returns to increase gradually.

"Al-Sharqat now enjoys relative safety and stability, with security forces and tribesmen from the 51st Brigade imposing full control over the city's neighbourhoods," said Sheikh Jassim al-Jabara, chairman of the provincial council's security committee.

"Today, our forces are pursuing the enemy on the eastern side of al-Sharqat across the Tigris River. They have spread and intensified their surveillance efforts there to repel any attempts of infiltration by the terrorists," he told Diyaruna.

Military engineering teams have also removed more than 400 bombs and mines planted by ISIL gunmen as they were retreating from the city, he said, noting that "al-Sharqat is now completely secure from explosives".

Resumption of services

Relief materials and oil derivatives began flowing into the city, according to al-Jabara, while electrical gridlines were fixed and work at health centres has resumed.

Security forces have started registering returning families and checking their information against a security database to prevent infiltration attempts by ISIL members, he said.

"Residents now live under the umbrella of the law and their lives are little by little returning back to normal," he added.

Security forces achieved a "brilliant victory" in al-Sharqat, said provincial council member Hardan Lafteh.

"The liberation battle and speedy victory did not incur any losses among civilians, liberating troops or infrastructure, making it one of the cleanest battles," he told Diyaruna.

Now the focus needs to be on reconstruction efforts, Lafteh said.

"At this stage, we need the support and assistance of both government and international entities to remove ISIL remnants and resurrect the province," he said.

Do you like this article?

0 Comment(s)
Comment Policy * Denotes Required Field 1500 / 1500