Emma Sky: The great cities of Mosul and Aleppo must be rebuilt
12 Jul 2017|

It’s vital for the recovery of the Middle East and the healing of Islam that the devastated cities of Mosul, in Iraq, and Aleppo, in Syria, be rebuilt, says regional specialist Emma Sky.

After years working for nongovernmental organisations on development and conflict resolution in Israel, Palestine and the Gaza Strip, Ms Sky was in Britain when the 2003 Iraq war began. Though opposed to the invasion, she volunteered to help the Coalition Provincial Authority and served as the governorate coordinator of Kirkuk and then as political adviser to the commander of US forces, General Ray Odierno.

In 2005, Ms Sky was an adviser in the Middle East peace process and later became development adviser to the Italian and British commanding generals of NATO’s International Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

A deep understanding of the complexities and cross-currents of daily life in the region has made her one of the experts most sought after by those looking for solutions in the Middle East.

In conversation with The Strategist, Ms Sky said Mosul and Aleppo were once great cities and cultural centres in the heartland of Islam. Both have been extensively damaged in fighting to recapture them.

‘It’s very important for Mosul and Aleppo to be rebuilt’, Ms Sky said. ‘Those cities were once the heart of culture and cosmopolitanism. They need to become thriving places once more, to be symbols of pride and resilience—to provide hope for a future far brighter than the dystopian world of ISIS.’

Ms Sky said that if the cities were not rebuilt, the morale of Sunni Arabs would continue to decline, more humiliations would be endured, and extremist groups would gain recruits again.

Finding the money needed for reconstruction will be a challenge, she said. ‘Mosul will seek support from the Iraqi government and the international community. Aleppo will depend on the initiative of the locals to rebuild using whatever resources they have.’

Earlier, in a speech at the Australian National University, Ms Sky noted that Palestinian disenfranchisement led to decades of terrorism, and she warned, ‘That is nothing to what is going to happen now.’

Ms Sky told The Strategist that in the 1990s the Middle East peace process aimed to ensure that, within a decade, nobody would consider themselves a refugee. But since then, the number of refugees in the region has increased exponentially, with millions of Iraqis and Syrians displaced from their homes by international intervention and civil war.

‘The consequences of the dispossession of the Palestinians and the failure to resolve the conflict should serve as a warning to the international community’, she said. ‘It led to neighbouring countries being destabilised and to acts of terrorism.’

Ms Sky said the ongoing civil wars in the Middle East had created chaos and ungoverned space in which groups such as ISIS were able to emerge. ‘The conflict has brought misery to millions, radicalising some, and forcing others to flee. Many suffer trauma and depression from losing family, friends and possessions. The consequences will be felt for generations.’