As anti-ISIS campaign grinds on, Mosul's businesses start rebuilding

Local business owners roll up their sleeves and start the hard work of bringing life back to the city.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters
A worker collects steel during the rebuilding of a building destroyed during fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic state fighters, eastern Mosul, Iraq, April 21, 2017.

Some businessmen in Mosul have begun rebuilding their shattered premises without waiting for financial support from the cash-strapped Iraqi government or for the final defeat of Islamic State in the city.

"If we wait for support, it could take a long time," said Rafeh Ghanem, who owns an automotive spare-parts business in the eastern side of the city.

An airstrike in January reduced the two-story building that houses his shop and dozens of others to a heap of rubble and twisted steel rods.

US-backed Iraqi forces took back the eastern side of Mosul in January, after 100 days of fighting. They are now fighting Islamic State in districts lying west of the Tigris river that bisects the city.

Mr. Ghanem said he and the 25 other businesses that rent space in the building agreed to contribute funds to help the landlord clear the debris and rebuild one of the two stories.

Reconstruction started on April 11 and Ghanem hopes to return to business in three to four months.

He says waiting is of no use since the price of building materials is expected to rise as more reconstruction projects get under way, boosting demand for steel and cement.

The city, captured by IS in 2014, has suffered extensive damage as hundreds of houses and public buildings including the airport, the main railway station and the university have been destroyed.

Cement and steel prices have gone down steeply since the militants were defeated in eastern Mosul, as road connections have opened up with the rest of Iraq and Turkey, allowing supplies to resume.

A metric ton of cement used to sell for up to 350,000 Iraqi dinars ($300) after the militants took over nearly three years ago. It now costs 80,000 to 90,000, said an importer, Saif Ibrahim.

For Ghanem, there is no other choice but to rebuild the city which had a pre-war population of more than 2 million.

"We live in this city, we have to bring it back."

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