Marawi: Philippine city still left in ruins a year after siege

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Marawi City, Philippines – It has been one year since an armed group inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a deadly five-month siege in the southern Philippine city of Marawi.

The fighting between the Maute group and the Philippine military had left much of the city in ruins, killed over a thousand combatants and civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.

But seven months after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the battle over, residents say the government has not been transparent enough about the city’s reconstruction plans.

Taking Back Marawi – 101 East

As the country’s only Sharia law-administered city observes the holy month of Ramadan this year, the minarets have remained silent in the once bustling university town.

The whole island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located, remains under martial law until the end of 2018, and a group led by mostly former military officials is now in charge of rehabilitation plans in Marawi.

The group promises to complete reconstruction plans by 2022, the year when Duterte is expected to step down from office.

But rights groups say the government needs to be more transparent.

Civic leader Drieza Lininding told Al Jazeera that civilians have been appealing for government to be more inclusive in its rehabilitation plans, but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

“We already took the beating during the war, and now we are suffering even more. We should be allowed to rebuild our homes while the government rebuild facilities. Why are we not being allowed to do this?”

‘Listen to the people’

A plan to build a military camp right at the heart of Marawi is making many people angry here. Building the camp is estimated to cost the government at least $4m.

Residents have said the money intended for the military should instead go to the civilians displaced in the fighting.

Amnesty International accuses Philippine government forces of war crimes

The Philippine government has also reportedly awarded most of the contracts to Chinese companies – something that is making many experts uneasy here.

“The government needs to understands and realise the complexities and nuances, we need to listen to the people, we need to hear them out and allow them to control their narrative to control their story,” lawyer Anna Tarhata Basman of the non-profit INCITEGov told Al Jazeera.

Members of the Maute group looted, burned business establishments and destroyed homes during the siege.

But it is also clear that government air strikes destroyed much of the city, leaving it a place haunted by violence and death.

At the ruins of Marawi’s grand mosque, worshippers told Al Jazeera that the destruction of the city’s iconic building hurts them like an exit wound.

There is also growing discontent and anger among displaced communities, and many worry of more bloodletting, revenge and recriminations.

They fear that the war is not quite over.

Activists have demanded that President Duterte end martial law in Mindanao [EPA]

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