In an interview, the deputy governor of Ninawa, Hassan al-Allaf, tells NIQASH that, contrary to some opinions, the provincial council does have a plan for what comes after the Islamic State in Mosul and in other towns around the province.
Al-Allaf, an Arab politician who was actually recovering from recent surgery, says that the thing that annoys him most right now doesn’t have anything to do with fighting against the extremist Islamic State group. It is the fact that Arab politicians on Ninawa’s provincial council are continuing to quarrel amongst themselves.
On a more positive note, al-Allaf looks forward to returning to the city and putting into place plans to ensure that this will never happen in his hometown again.
We are facing an enemy that has caused disaster in Iraq and everything else pales in comparison to that danger.
NIQASH: What are your thoughts on the fighting around Ninawa so far?
Hassan al-Allaf: The fighting is going well and the forces are maintaining a good pace. There are a lot of concerns that the IS group will use citizens as human shields but the Iraqi military are dealing with this well, and in a professional way.
The current cooperation between the Kurdish military and the Iraqi army is a good sign. It could be that the liberation of Mosul makes Iraqis unite, rather than driving them apart.
NIQASH: Can you tell us anything about plans to help displaced Iraqis return to their homes in Ninawa?
Al-Allaf: This is a large and complicated project. But there is no doubt that the displaced will want to return to their homes. The Ninawa council has a plan for this. In fact, we even have experience in this area, in places like Sinjar and Zumar where we have worked hard to get the water and power back on, as well as other municipal services. Currently we are working on trying to help people return to their homes in Qayyarah.
In short we are doing our best to bring life back to these places.
NIQASH: Can you tell us any more about other plans for reconstruction in the province?
Al-Allaf: We have identified some priorities. The most important things include potable water, power, health facilities, education and then municipal services. The plans have been sent to Baghdad along with requests for funding. As yet we don’t know how much damage there is to government buildings and institutions so we can’t come up with any sort of cost estimate yet. We’ve heard that the council buildings, communication infrastructure and the university buildings have been damaged. But we can’t assess that damage until engineers go in and check it. Then we will decide. Of course, that is all going to depend on when the city is finally freed.
NIQASH: What about the students from all levels of education who lived under the IS group? They have lost years of education.
Al-Allaf: These trapped students have lost three years of their education. We have submitted a plan to the Iraqi Ministry of Education that includes compensation and accelerated lessons. The most important part of this is to allow students who had enrolled in mid-term exams in 2014 to enrol in final term exams for the same year. We also want the 2015 school year to be considered a no-fail year. In that way we can squeeze three years of lost schooling into two years.
NIQASH: There are so many military groups on the ground around Mosul at the moment. How do you see this working out in the future, after the IS group has left Ninawa?
Al-Allaf: After the city has been liberated we envisage the local police holding the ground. As for concerns about the Shiite Muslim volunteer militias, the only word we have on them, is about their participation in fighting near Tal Afar. If there are military remaining in the city after the liberation of Mosul I do not think this will be a good thing. They should only be stationed on the borders of the province.
As for any other local fighting forces, they should be dissolved immediately after the IS group has been pushed out and incorporated into the local police or into other local security forces. If these forces are left standing, they will endanger Ninawa’s peace. Those forces were formed for two reasons only – fighting the IS group and holding the ground the IS group did not have. Those forces were created by politicians.
NIQASH: Before the IS group took control of many parts of the province, some of these were actually under the control of the Iraqi Kurdish military and were considered “disputed territories”. Currently the Iraqi Kurdish are pushing back into these territories. But in your opinion, what should happen to these areas after the fighting is done?
Al-Allaf: This problem should be resolved using Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution [an Article that was specially formulated to decide whether certain areas belong to the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region or to Iraq proper]. There are those who say that Article 140 is no longer valid and there are others who believe it should be used.
But I think we need to overcome this. We are facing an enemy that has caused disaster in Iraq and the issue of the disputed territories pales in comparison to that danger. Personally I think this issue will certainly be solved in the near future, using existing constitutional and legal frameworks.
NIQASH: And what about the political situation in Ninawa? What’s your opinion on this?
Al-Allaf: It is terrible. There is a lot of infighting between the Arab politicians on the provincial council. It is so sad to see Iraq, and the world, uniting against the IS group while local politicians fight amongst themselves.
I would like to use this opportunity to call upon all of my colleagues on the provincial council to stop quarrelling until our city is free again. After that, we must let the voters decide who will fall and who will rise.
NIQASH: Are there any guarantees that you can give to the people of Ninawa that this will not happen again, that an organization like the IS group will not return to threaten them again?
Al-Allaf: This depends on several things: The awareness of local citizens on this issue and their ability to take responsibility for this, as well as the establishment of tighter security. These are essential to prevent the return of the IS group.
If citizens are willing to inform the authorities about problems and if the security forces and courts investigate and prosecute these problems properly and thoroughly, there will be no place for a group like the Islamic State. And this is true for the whole country too.
Additionally, the sources of inspiration to a group like the Islamic State need to be removed. That is something we have not tried before. There is no organization, for example, that teaches our children about the benefits of not being violent. Our children have been surrounded by violence and fighting for years.
NIQASH: Finally, could you give us your personal perspective on what is happening in Mosul? For instance, do you plan to go back?
Al-Allaf: Like all the people of Mosul, I am so proud of the cultural heritage of the city, of our great clans and families. I hope I will be able to return to Mosul soon and I know I am going to feel a lot of pain when I go back and see what has been destroyed. Today I heard that the IS group blew up the council buildings in Mosul, where I used to work. But I think this actually motivates us to do more – so that when we do go back, we will rebuild and work harder to prevent what happened before from ever happening again.