Over one doorway in the wall of a destroyed house, the top of a water bottle had been made into a shade for a hanging bulb. A boy emerged into the circle of light, his fists clasped around small treasures; he uncurled them to show pumpkin seeds, which he pressed on two strangers, then ran off.
Fluorescent light fizzed and lit up the shop of Muhammed Noor, 40, the only place back in business, revealing fruit and vegetables, cabbages the size of basketballs as well as sweets, snacks and a shelf of light bulbs.
Mr. Noor had been shot three times and left for dead when the Islamic State, apparently seeking vengeance for its defeat here, infiltrated squads of fighters behind five suicide bombers crossing from Turkey in June 2015. They marauded in The Museum area, killing 250 civilians who had stayed, including Mr. Noor’s brother, sister-in-law and cousin.
After that massacre, the authorities cleared everyone out of this area. Six months ago residents began filtering back. Returnees number only a couple of hundred, a fraction of the former population, but only a fraction of homes are even remotely habitable.
Fatma Muhammed, 34, limped outside her lighted doorway on what is now called Serzan Bufa Street — after a martyr of the fight — five of her nine children, ages 2 to 15, at her skirts. Her husband had been killed in front of her, and she was shot so many times that she nearly died, losing a finger and the full use of one leg.
“Life is hard for us here,” she said.
A block from Ms. Muhammed’s house, the entire Armenian Quarter, once a warren of narrow twisting lanes, has been reduced to piles of concrete, no light anywhere, the old lanes filled in by dirt and rubble.