Dolls And Teddy Bears Return To Liberated Areas Of Mosul
Iraqi children living in east Mosul can finally buy all the toys they want, to their delight and the chagrin of their parents' wallets, following the exit of Islamic State (ISIS).
The Sunni militant group had banned any toys with faces or eyes, which included dolls, teddy bears, action figures and any anthropomorphic animals during the three years they controlled Iraq's second largest city, deeming them a form of idolatry.
When U.S.-trained security forces drove out the group from eastern Mosul in January, two toy stores sprang up. Four months later, there are now 15, says toy wholesaler Abu Mohammed.
"Under Islamic State, any toys with faces we would have to make them veiled (if it is female) or only show eyes. Now this is no longer required and there is no ban on imports," he said at his shop, Al-Saad for Toys.
Abu Mohammed imports toys from China and says that most of the large toy stores actually lie in the western side of the city, which is still the site of battle between ISIS fighters and Iraqi security forces.
Abu Seif, a toy store owner, says children are relishing the change and business is booming.
Parents say they recognize the importance of buying toys for their children to help them move on after three years of war and terror.
Mosul resident, Taha, was there with his young son who was staring wide-eyed at dolls, giraffes, teddy bears, and ponies.
"Those toys with faces were banned under the premise of apostasy and idolatry. These are myths. They are not Muslims, they are distorting Islam" Taha said of ISIS.
"Children are traumatized; they [ISIS] ruined schools, they ruined toys, their [children's] lives are hell."
Mosul residents hope that by allowing the children to play with toys they enjoyed previously, their emotional recovery will only be a matter of time.
The battle to free Mosul is ongoing and has stretched into its seventh month. The heavy fighting has taken a drastic toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped in neighborhoods inside the city still under the control of the militants.
Among civilians that have fled, severely malnourished babies have been admitted to hospitals in government-held areas.
The operation to regain full control of Mosul from ISIS militants began on October 17 last year.
Iraqi forces liberated the eastern side of Mosul in February and continue the operation to regain the western side.