Iraqis celebrate ISIS defeat by re-opening bar
Iraq retook its northern town of Qaraqosh from ISIS nine months ago. It is still stumbling back to normalcy. Now, Qaraqosh once again has a bar, the first to reopen since ISIS' ouster. It has become a meeting point for locals, mainly Christians, who fled their homes three years ago. The jihadists had given them three options: convert to Islam, pay up, or die.
A sign to Christians who fled that they are welcome
The bar is welcoming Muslims too, who are celebrating their freedom to drink and smoke again. The ISIS had banned such actions. Owner Abu Firas hopes the re-opening will give a breath of life to the ravaged town and make the local Christians feel welcome. Till now, about 400 families have returned to Qaraqosh, which was the largest Christian settlement in Iraq.
As locals sit and drink, old friendships are re-forged
Muslims and Christians come to the bar to drown their sorrows and share grief. 45 year-old Abu Khalid says the alcohol helps to "release problems" by loosening the tongue. It also gives the Christians hope that peaceful co-existence with the Muslims is possible again. Firas has covered the bullet marks on the walls with beer posters. Business is getting better, he says.