In Iraq’s historic city of Mosul, posters of electoral candidates hang on piles of rubble and pockmarked walls.
The intention is to encourage people to vote, but, for some, the jostling for support amid evidence of a city let down by countless elected officials is too much to bear.
Candidates for October’s poll promise residents a prosperous future, to combat corruption and rebuild homes after the destruction wrought by ISIS between 2012 and 2017. But many consider their pledges unrealistic, given the extent of the city’s damage.
Residents told The National they have lost hope that their vote will help elect a new generation of leaders who will look after them.
“They think they can buy us with their quotes and statements when they sold us out in 2014. Where was the government when ISIS invaded us?” one man said.
“We don’t believe in the country’s political system any more. It’s all lies.”
The Old City, on the western side of the River Tigris, was Mosul’s heart and soul. It still lies in ruins years after ISIS was defeated, despite promises to rebuild.
Structures around the area are covered in bullet holes and the streets are largely deserted.
The Old City suffered the most damage of any district during the fighting between ISIS and Iraqi government forces. It is where the historic Great Mosque of Al Nuri and its famous leaning Al Hadba minaret once stood.
Reconstruction has been painfully slow. Delays have been caused by lack of coherent government at the provincial level; the governor of Nineveh province, which includes Mosul, has been replaced three times since the liberation.
A UAE-funded Unesco project to clear rubble and landmines planted by ISIS around Mosul’s Al Saa’a Monastery began in February.
"What makes matters worse is that the electoral candidates came and hung their pictures over the destruction and devastation, forgetting what has happened to the city,” the resident said.
“They only care about winning.”
Ali Al Baroodi, a photographer and Mosul University lecturer, told The National that nothing new would come about from the elections.
“The situation is the same. It’s been repeated many times before, the way the posters have been displayed on the billboards, above damaged buildings and rubble,” he said.
“We have heard many promises of reconstruction but nothing has come out of it.”
Mr Al Baroodi says that, to this day, corpses and explosive devices are buried under debris throughout the city.
“Many dead bodies are still pulled out of the rubble and damaged buildings in the city centre. We don’t know their identities,” he said.
This is not what the people of Mosul had hoped to happen, he said.
“There’s nothing new and it’s the same political gains as before.”
The UN estimated that more than 8,000 homes in Mosul were destroyed in the intense air strikes to fight ISIS.
At least 9,000 people were killed in the nine-month battle.
Mosul was long celebrated as a centre of Iraqi culture and history, but that life was suppressed even before ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014.