I had the privilege of representing my city Mosul on June 26 at the UNESCO conference “From Mosul To Chambord” within the UNESCO’s Flagship Initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”. I addressed the need for cultural recovery for Mosul especially its youth.
As the revival of Mosul’s heritage will reveal keys to humanity’s resistance against violence and division. It will reveal that the only way to live together is by believing in diversity as a mosaic, where each distinct piece is integral to the revelation of the whole, where any missing piece will in the end rob all of their shared destiny. The protection and promotion of this heritage in the contemporary culture will create safe spaces of communication between diverse groups of people. When you feel your identity is protected, you will act in a responsible way before the entire community.
My battle since June 2014 has been to reverse what ISIS has tried to implant in the consciousness of Mosul’s residents with the only weapon I have as a historian––writing history. The social, cultural and historical destruction wrought by the group will impact the city for centuries to come. Documenting history in such a context is a battle for knowledge: to develop the critical thinking capacity of the individual as a resistance to tyranny and to protect knowledge for the future. Now that ISIS has gone, I hope a more inclusive history of the city can be documented, one that’s been missing for many decades.
Despite all the destruction, human and tangible, there are many green shoots, signs of hope among the youth, who, in many cases are for the first time exploring the history of their city and its surroundings, places they never knew of or even thought to visit before! They need concrete support to grow this yearning into tangible actions that progress their lives and safeguard a better future. This makes UNESCO’s Revive the Spirit of Mosul initiative especially unique in its possibility to rise to the challenge and build cooperation directlywith the community in all its diversity, especially its young people.
Mosul always survives. As the medieval geographer in the 11thcentury: “The city is a large and ancient one, fortified and imposing, and prepared against the strokes of adversity.” This I can only attest to again and again, the resilience of my city.