Reuters

  In Reuters

In parts of Mosul, a semblance of normality despite war
In some parts of Mosul, you can almost forget that a war is being waged over the city between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants who still control more than half of it – at least momentarily.
Cars clog the streets, stalls are heaped with fresh produce and bicycles weave through the traffic, as the city slowly emerges from more than two years under the iron grip of Islamic State.

As Iraqi forces prise away more and more of the militants’ largest urban stronghold, a semblance of normality is returning to eastern districts that were retaken in the early stages of a campaign that began nearly three months ago.
But reminders of the conflict and the militants’ legacy are never far away.
“We are trying to forget,” said 19-year old Wisam, slicing meat off a skewer to serve a customer in the Zuhour neighborhood.
“It will take time – some things have got inside our heads.”
Around his stall, the market was bustling with people enjoying the freedom to walk around undisturbed by the Hisba, which enforced Islamic State rules and punished infractions with fines and flogging.
Young men ran after a ball on a soccer pitch, some wearing shorts, which were forbidden under Islamic State. The logos on their football shirts, however, are still missing: the militants deemed them un-Islamic and ordered they be removed, particularly those resembling a cross.
Occasionally, the militants themselves came to play, prompting everyone else to flee in fear of being caught in the crosshairs of coalition planes targeting Islamic State, said 22-year old Osama, who runs the pitch.
Under militant rule, matches had to stop at prayer time and players only ever had one eye on the ball, Osama said. The other eye was on the street, in case an Islamic State patrol drove past. There is still a mark where a mortar bomb tore through the synthetic turf, and only shards of glass remain in the window panes after a car bomb exploded nearby when Iraqi forces retook Zuhour in early November.
Many people stayed in their homes throughout the battle, defying predictions of an exodus from the city where as many as 1.5 million were said to live.
Those who left – both during the fighting and before – are also returning, even though basic services such as electricity, health facilities and water have not been restored.
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