The silence is striking in Mosul's old town.
It's like time has stood still since IS's atrocities, and the air strikes that tried to destroy the terrorist force.
Two years have passed since Mosul was liberated from IS. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
However, on a narrow little back alley, surrounded by ruins, is a small sign of life in an otherwise so empty and crushed Mosul.
- IS burned down my entire book store. I had a warehouse close to where we are now and they burned it down completely. I lost thousands of books and was arrested by IS because of specific books, says Dawod Salem."Nobody wants to read about religion"
The bookstore Al Sham has been open for almost a week when SVT News visits it. The bookshelves are not yet fully filled. Some unopened boxes are on the floor.
- Interest in some books has diminished. Books about Islam in general, political Islam or everything about radicalization within Islam. All this has diminished. Instead, people turn to novels and history, and through these books they reflect on what has happened, says Dawod Salem.
"If I didn't believe in the future, I wouldn't have opened a book store again," says Dawod Salem. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
In addition to burning books, much literature was also banned by IS.
"This is a book about ethnic nationalism, which is about the social structure of nations," says Dawod Salem, and extends to it.
- It was banned by IS. For they believe that Islam has united all nations under one umbrella. That everyone should be Muslims, that the whole world must be Muslims. They do not believe in religious freedom or other social structures, he says.Bodies buried in the masses
Tens of thousands of buildings are completely destroyed. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
However, life is far from back in Mosul. Tens of thousands of buildings are still completely bombed.
- Come up and see if you want, there are still bodies here, says Aedan, who works with carrying boulders and debris from a, apparently, old three-storey house.
More than 7,000 people live in this refugee camp, located one hour outside Mosul. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
More than 300,000 Mosul residents still live today as internal refugees and cannot return to their homes. They can't afford to build up their past lives before IS terror, and there are no jobs to look for for anyone who wants to make money.
- I've lived there almost all my life, from 1967 until we left. Go and look at old Mosul and see how it turned out. When we talk about it we cry. The old Mosul was humane and nice, but now it is destroyed, says Mona Saleh Abdel Qader who lives in a refugee camp just an hour away from Mosul.
Mona Saleh Abdel Qader's home was occupied by IS and then destroyed in an air raid, she says. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT The Mosul people betray
The Iraqi government has appealed to the international community for help with reconstruction. Many of the resources they have received so far have gone to, among other things, mine clearance, they say.
But the Mosul people feel forgotten and betrayed by the Iraqi authorities.
- The government does not care about this country. Two years have passed. Tell me, what did they do? Responsible and elected politicians have not even thought about contributing a monthly salary to build the wall of this mosque. God's house for Muslims, Zaki Abdul Rahim says, pointing across the street.
Zaki Abdul Rahim (right) is disappointed by the Iraqi authorities. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
One of the first symbolic acts IS did when they proclaimed their caliphate in the summer of 2014 was to preach in the historic al-Nurim Mosque. It is also the only time the leader and caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in public.
The last terror group to do before they were defeated in Mosul was to blow up the same mosque.
On the dome of al-Nurism Mosque, someone scribbled "fuck IS". Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
Zaki Abdul Rahim has taken protection from the baking sun. Next to al-Nurimoschen, he sells petrol bottles. One and a half liters costs 1,500 Iraqi dinars, equivalent to SEK 12.
- You get sad. How can I describe the feeling, when you grew up here and lived and there were good times. No one has seen what we have seen, and no one in charge cares about us, says Zakhey Abdul Rahim and takes a deep flare from his cigarette."I want to give life to the street"
The heat in Mosul is almost unbearable. As soon as a wind blow comes, it is like opening an oven door.
- Mosul will never get back to his old soul. Neither the remains nor their own people. It's over, says teacher Hossein Abu Abbass.
The old town of Mosul is still in ruins. Photo: Salim Alsabbagh / SVT
However, Dawod Salem is not as skeptical. With his newly opened bookstore, he is one of the few Mosul residents who believes it is possible to re-ignite the city's spark.
- If I didn't believe in the future, I wouldn't have opened again. But I am here from morning to afternoon and I open even if I do not sell anything. It is to show presence and give life to Najafigatan again, he says.