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On edge of Mosul, shoppers savour market life again

GOGJALI (IRAQ) (AFP) – 

A month ago it was on the front line of Iraq’s battle to retake Mosul, but now the village of Gogjali echoes with shouts of “Chicken! Tomatoes! Cigarettes!”

A lively market has sprung up here on the eastern edge of Mosul, where just a few kilometres (miles) away Iraqi forces are fighting street by street with the Islamic State group.

The market has become a place not just to shop, but to work and to talk — to savour the newfound freedom of life without the jihadists.

His head wrapped in a traditional keffiyeh headscarf, Khaled Mohammed Saleh chops meat at an impromptu butcher’s shop he has erected with red zinc panels.

“Security here is much better than anywhere else in the area,” the man in his 50s says.

Elite Iraqi forces reclaimed control of Gogjali in the early days of the offensive they launched to retake Mosul on October 17, more than two years after IS seized Iraq’s second largest city.

Remnants of the battle to capture the village can be seen in the rubble piled at the side of the road and the shells of destroyed buildings.

But nearby are signs of new life — boxes filled with tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes and onions.

Fares Maher, 27, has come from the Mosul neighbourhood of Zahra, now under the control of Iraqi forces, to stock up.

“I come here every day to buy food and resell it to the residents of my neighbourhood,” he says.

– Women can again shop alone –

A kilogramme of tomatoes or aubergines is selling for less than 1,000 dinars, the equivalent of about 85 US cents.

Maher says that’s less than produce used to cost under IS, which imported goods from Syria, the other country in the jihadists’ cross-border “caliphate”.

Today the products at the market are coming mainly from the city of Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital, but also from further afield.

Abdelaziz Saleh, who has laid out bags of sweets and boxes of preserved goods, pulls out a cake imported from Iran.

“Iranian products were strictly forbidden” under IS rule, he says.

“When the jihadists saw someone selling Iranian products, they immediately arrested them and seized their merchandise,” confirms Ashraf Shakr, a 30-year-old vegetable seller.

For Shakr one big change has been seeing women out shopping by themselves. Under IS, he says, “they always had to be accompanied by a man or a child who would speak to the vendor for them.”

Many of the village’s residents were unable to find work while IS controlled Gogjali and were pleased to again have the opportunity to earn some money.

Many of those fleeing fighting inside the city have to pass through the village and several grocery stores have sprung up along its streets.

“There is a lot of work, people come every day to do their shopping,” says Hussein Haidar, a 24-year-old vegetable seller at the market.

“Before the arrival of Daesh, we were in painting but the company stopped working when IS took control of Mosul,” his brother Mohammed says. “So now we sell vegetables.”

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161129-edge-mosul-shoppers-savour-market-life-again