MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
We're going to hear now about the two sides of life in the Iraqi city of Mosul. It has been three months since ISIS was forced out of the city. The fighting reduced one side, the west, to ruins. The eastern side of Mosul, though, is thriving. NPR's Jane Arraf went to look at the city's deep physical and social divisions.
JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This is east Mosul. The streets are full of cars again instead of military vehicles. There are women driving. There are wedding celebrations. And the cafes and the shops are open again, full of all kinds of things that ISIS banned in the three years it ruled the city.
AHMED JAWDAT: (Through interpreter) Most of the things I sell were forbidden by ISIS. Pants for women, party dresses - anything beautiful like this was banned.
ARRAF: That's Ahmed Jawdat. His shop across the river in west Mosul was destroyed, so he opened one here. It's full of sparkly dresses imported from Turkey. He says business is really good.
JAWDAT: (Speaking Arabic).
ARRAF: Jawdat says security in east Mosul now is better than it is in Baghdad. Most of the damage done in the fight against ISIS was quickly repaired here. In the busy shops, and restaurants and bustling streets, you can see a bit of why Mosul was once Iraq's commercial hub. But the other side of town, across the Tigris River, is a different story.
SADIQ RAMADAN: (Speaking Arabic).
ARRAF: Sadiq Ramadan and a friend are standing on the riverbank, snapping selfies. Their backdrop is western Mosul. The tops of the buildings have been blown off. The skyline is monochromatic - gray concrete rubble and black scorched walls. He left six years ago when it started getting dangerous, and he doesn't see himself moving back.
RAMADAN: (Speaking Arabic).
ARRAF: "It was so hard for me to see it like this. It makes my heart hurt," he says.
The west is the historic part of Mosul - centuries old. ISIS found fertile ground here at first in some of the poor neighborhoods. As the battle with Iraqi security forces raged, ISIS dug in here, hiding among civilians in the narrow streets. U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes and mortars leveled entire neighborhoods on the west side. A lot of Iraqis believe that people in west Mosul - particularly poorer and less educated than the east side of the city - invited ISIS in.
On the west side of the bridge, Iraqi army sergeant Mohammad Ahmed asks a driver for his car registration. He checks the trunk for weapons. He says thousands of vehicles a day pass through his checkpoint. Most of the traffic is Iraqis who've salvaged what they could from their damaged homes in the west. They're leaving again for the east side. There are hundreds and hundreds of trucks piled high with furniture, and mattresses and bulging plastic bags.
And a lot of these taxis driving by are so loaded with families that one of them that just went past had two young men sitting in the trunk. It's really just a few hundred feet, but this bridge is the link between people's old lives and their new ones.
There are a lot of neighborhoods here so damaged, the government isn't even letting people come back to them. But on the outskirts of the most heavily damaged section of Mosul, the old city, we see one street coming back to life. Basman al Rashadi and his neighbors are hanging out on the corner. There's no electricity in their houses. There's no water supply either, so they've dug wells.
BASMAN AL RASHADI: (Speaking Arabic).
RASHADI: (Speaking Arabic).
ARRAF: "You won't find the name of this neighborhood on any map," Rashadi tells me. He says it's called the floating neighborhood because during the winter, the streets are filled with mud and dirty water. Buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes. And just down the alley, there is an unexploded bomb in a damaged house. But they say it's still better than being displaced in east Mosul. Here, they say, people are poor, but they help each other out. That wasn't the case when they were displaced on the east side.
RASHADI: (Through interpreter) It's like we were coming from another country. They wouldn't even give us a bottle of water. They wouldn't give us water from their wells.
ARRAF: People in Mosul say there's always been a divide between the west and east side of the city. ISIS and the battle against it deepen those divisions. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Mosul.
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