Poll of Mosul residents reveals deep distrust of government
The majority of people from Mosul, currently held by the Islamic State group [IS], are opposed to the city to be taken back by controversial Shia militias, according to a poll conducted by The New Arab's Arabic service.
The survey asked 611 media activists from Mosul - 217 still living in IS' de facto Iraqi capital and 394 living in surrounding displacement camps and cities - about their opinions on the long-awaited operation to retake Mosul from jihadists.
Ninety-five percent of the people polled said they wanted IS to be ousted from the city, whereas two percent, who were all still living in Mosul, said they wanted the Islamist militants to remain in power.
"We were living in a state of constant humiliation and sectarian discrimination brought about by government forces," one IS-supporting respondent said.
Ninety-two percent said they were against government-backed Shia militias known as the Hashd al-Shaabi taking part in the military operation, although seven percent of respondents said they endorsed their participation as long as they refrained from entering the city.
The Shia militias have been accused of committing serious abuses and reprisal attacks against Sunnis thought to belong or to be sympathetic to IS in cities previously retaken from IS such as Fallujah and Tikrit.
Iraq's second-largest city fell to IS in the summer of 2014, of an original population of 3.5 million only around 1.25 million remain today.
Twenty-one percent of the activists polled said they do not want to continue living in the city with 70 percent responding that they wanted to seek refuge in the Kurdistan region north of the city and nine percent opting the capital Baghdad as a safe haven.
Ninety-three percent said they wanted local tribal militias made up of Sunni fighters to retake the city, which could become a reality as authorities may order the Shia militias to stay out of the battle.
Last Thursday, government forces retook the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, from IS in the latest in a long list of recent setbacks for the militant group.
Retreating IS fighters set fire to scores of oil wells in town as they retreated, leaving residents blanketed by smoke for days.
Tens of thousands already displaced
Military operations along the Mosul corridor intensifiying since mid-June forced nearly 84,000 people between 16 June and 24 August to flee, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Monday.
The report said funding shortfalls continue to impede humanitarian assistance to the growing humanitarian crisis there, as ongoing military operations against IS are set to intensify.
OCHA in July warned the fighting could cause mass civilian casualties and cause hundreds of thousands to be displaced.
The expected exodus and humanitarian disaster could require over $2 billion in aid and crisis-management funds, the agency said in the summary of its Iraq humanitarian response plan at the time.