(Reuters) As raw sewage gushed out of a crater made by an airstrike against ISIS in Mosul, seething residents who sold their clothes to survive had a sobering message for Iraqi politicians boasting of military advances against the group.
“If life does not improve, we will not accept this and there will be a revolt against the government,” said Ihsan Abdullah. “If things don’t change ISIS will just come back. Mosul residents will support whoever can help them.”
A former traffic policeman, he said he had not worked since ISIS swept into the city in 2014, leaving him no choice but to sell his clothes for food.
When government forces arrived, he asked for his job back, but he was told he would first need to go to Baghdad to get clearance proving he was not a member of ISIS. That would take too long, he said.
Iraqi forces have driven the militants out of east Mosul, and are poised to expand their major offensive into the western half of the biggest city in northern Iraq. That has brought relief after more that two years of ISIS harsh rule.
But residents are turning their fury towards the Iraqi government, blaming it not only for current hardships such as a lack of basic services, but for the conditions that enabled ISIS to take over Mosul in the first place.
Many bitterly recalled the ease with which about 800 ISIS militants seized control in a few hours, as thousands of Iraqi soldiers fled.
“All of this is because of the politicians. They sold out Mosul and created sectarian problems. It was in their interest to divide the country,” said coffee shop owner Akram Waadallah.
A group of men around him supported that view, standing beside shops destroyed by ISIS rule and the firepower needed to dislodge the jihadists.
One man stepped forward and echoed a common complaint. “There is no running water. What are we supposed to do drink out of a dirty well?”