Two Caliphates Fall, Mosul Survives

By: Omar Mohammed, founder of Mosul Eye

Published by March 15th, 2018

“We are Ottomans.”

My grandmother said this in 1996. She came from an old Mosul family that lived in the Bab Lagash neighborhood. I was 10 years old at the time—it was also the year that I got my first Christian calendar, from a very old bookshop on Al-Najafi Street.

She said this in answer to a question my uncle put to her during their discussion of the distribution of the estate that had been left to them by their ancestors in Mosul. My mother’s share was a part of a small house in the Bab al-Beid section in the old city. The house was near Al-Watan school where she completed her primary studies, and she always remembered her Kurdish headmistress, Kawakib Jalmiran.

My grandmother began to reminisce about the Ottoman identity of Mosul in an earlier era. She spoke in the Mosuli dialect, and very quickly, so I wasn’t sure I understood every word.

Years passed, and the subject stuck in my head. I preserved all the documents that proved my mother’s ownership of the house. A few years later, my father asked me to make a photocopy of my grandfather’s Ottoman document, and even then I did not know the meaning of the word “Ottoman.” I knew that there was a state called the Ottoman caliphate and that Mosul had been one of its provinces. From that moment on I wanted to know the history and to understand what my grandmother meant when she said, “We are Ottomans.” At school, everyone around me said we were Mosulis from Iraq!

I was born in 1986, during the Iran-Iraq war, and grew up during the first Gulf War. I still remember the big cellar of the old house in the Old City that belonged to one of my grandparents; they said there was a war and we had to hide in it. My family and all my relatives lived in that cellar; the families were separated from each other by curtains. There were many conversations, and I used to like listening to the talk of the old women. One of them spoke about the ordeal of the Mosul famine of 1917. With every one of these conversations that I heard, my passion to know the history of my city increased.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, on the day coalition forces entered Baghdad—April 9—the principal of our school told us to go home. When I arrived at the house, which is about 20 minutes from my school, my mother and father were sitting in front of the television, watching the crowds that had gathered around the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad. American soldiers tied chains to the statue to pull it down, and we saw people beating pictures of Saddam. My father, my mother and my younger brothers sat in silence. Minutes later I noticed a strange smile on my father’s face: The tyrant had fallen.

A marketplace (souk) in Mosul, Iraq, ca. 1932 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

So far, everything was going on normally in our neighborhood. I went out into the street with my friend. There were still armed men in uniform on the street: the local Ba’th party leader and youths with medium and light weapons. They were distributing weapons to checkpoints around the neighborhood from a truck filled with weapons, where a long queue of people waited to get guns.

The next day—April 10, a Friday—I was standing with my friends near the mosque. Armed men in civilian clothes and military uniforms came to see what was happening. The preacher began his sermon; it was about the duty to defend Iraq against the American occupation. “God save the herdsman and the herd, and God save the president of the republic!” he said. U.S. forces were not yet in Mosul at that time. A few minutes after the start of the sermon, two vehicles arrived, bringing American soldiers and a sheikh in Arab dress. Later, I learned that the sheikh was Salim Mulla Allo, a notorious figure in Mosul politics. Within a matter of seconds, the preacher who had been calling for the defense of Iraq was now crying, “Today is the day of freedom! Injustice has fallen and righteousness has triumphed! The tyrannical rule of Saddam and his Ba’thist regime have fallen!” And cries of “God is great!” rang out everywhere.

I began to read about the Ottomans and their presence in Mosul, and started studying history at the University of Mosul. I chose as the subject of my master’s degree thesis the work of the Egyptian historian Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti (1753–1825), who chronicled the French campaign in Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte. I wanted to study what this historian wrote about French soldiers in Cairo to get a better understanding of the American forces in Mosul.

Since 2003 I have watched the jihadist movements and how their ideas came to permeate everyday life. In many cases, they made their principles part of Mosul society’s basics and habits. Their daily vocabulary revolved around “jihad,” “redemption” and “martyrdom.” They rejected terms such as “resistance” that some jihadists used, associating them with the ideas of secularists or nationalists. They made videos of fighting and killing and distributed them on the streets and in the mosques, even selling them outside the University of Mosul and in the Bab al-Toob area. Poets began to write poems praising the jihadists, and even about the cars they used in terrorist operations. One of them described the Opel Vectra (the car most commonly imported into Iraq after 2003 and the preferred vehicle for suicide attacks) as the new war-steed, and its driver as the knight.

At 3 a.m. on June 10, 2014, armed extremists moved into the northwest of Mosul and began firing heavily at police checkpoints. The gunfire continued until 11 in the morning. When it was quiet, I emerged from the room in which my family and I had been hiding. I opened the door of the house and saw bodies lying in the street and a red car filled with explosive barrels. At the end of the street there was an ambulance with the burned body of an Iraqi policeman inside it, surrounded by armed men wearing black Afghan clothing and carrying black flags inscribed with the words “God, Prophet Muhammad,” making a travesty of those names. People were to call it the banner of the Eagle. I knew it well and wrote an essay on what a fraud it was.

U.S. Army soldiers take cover after hearing small arms fire in Mosul in 2008 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

On June 13, 2014, after securing their control of Mosul, Da’esh distributed their “municipal or city charter” and later that month declared their caliphate. From that moment on, I realized that Da’esh wanted to change the history of the city in a dangerous way. They destroyed all Assyrian, Christian and Islamic monuments and everything to do with the history of Mosul, and began to apply their version of history to the city.

For three years, Mosul was under the rule of terror. There were beheadings, whippings, heads broken with stones, bodies thrown from buildings and horrific forms of torture in the prisons. I chronicled the brutality and destruction that took place, and one day I will publish a history of what happened here, in all its horror. I call it “the terrible history of the occupation of Mosul by Da’esh.”

I fled from Mosul to Europe, and began work on my doctoral thesis on the history of Mosul in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I kept the Ottoman question in my mind, but in a different way this time. While searching for sources for my studies, I found manuscripts on the history of Mosul during one of its most dangerous periods, one of them written by a Mosuli historian. I was struck by the similarity between what was written about the Ottomans, and the last phase of their presence in Mosul before the English army entered the city, and what I wrote about Da’esh—the way they entered, and the way they left.

The Ottomans also ruled Mosul in the name of a caliphate. A local historian wrote in late 1917 that the Ottomans were cruel to the people and seized their money and their wheat, and the people starved. Similarly, on August 13, 2014, I wrote that “Da’esh seized the houses of Christians and the houses of Muslims who have left the city, as well as the property of merchants who have left the city” and imposed new taxes to be collected, payable monthly.

When the Ottoman Caliphate fell in 1918 and the English entered Mosul, people breathed a sigh of relief after the injustice that the Turks had inflicted on them. The local historian writing in 1917 told the same story my grandmother had told about how the English distributed food that the Ottomans had confiscated and stockpiled. This reminded me of the battle for Mosul in 2017, when the people were trapped, and Da’esh deprived them of water, food and medicine.

But Mosul always survives. As the medieval geographer Ibn Jubayr (1145-1217) wrote: “The city is a large and ancient one, fortified and imposing, and prepared against the strokes of adversity.”

My grandmother died in 2015, in grief. But I say to her now, No, my grandmother, we are not Ottomans. We are Mosulis.

Christmas Prayers for Peace and Freedom This Holidays

To The Dignified Child,

On this day of every year, the heart of humanity awakes from its slumber with a new passion, and prepared to receive a glorious parade

2017 years have passed by, and every year, just like this morning, the Christian world shivers with spirit and joy, while it halts and stops to face towards Palestine

Palestine, the cradle of Prophecy and curators, the tomb of the greatest and the mighty, the land where Armia stood, crying and sprinkling tears of Sorrow, and where David erected singing and chanting the songs of victory and triumph on his harp.

The humanity stares at Bethlehem in this parade, as their hearts are filled with passion and their gaze preceded them, seeking that lonely grotto, asking the shepherds and the guardians of the fields, guided by the most glowing star in the sky, as a sign of Heavens sharing this world its celebration.

At that lonely and quite grotto, where nothing is heard but the groans of winds, the creaks of bushes, bleating of sheep, and stirr of livestock .. twenty centuries ago, a newborn named Jesus came to this world, next to a weak and exhausted mother.

That was all what was found there, but the greater world, with all its intelligent minds and greatest hearts continued to praise this child and repeat “This is the greatest any woman has beard and gave birth to!” .. People rushed in floks to this new child’s stage, carrying their precious gifts, and the kings and the greatest of this world came to him l, carrying gold and rosemary, to celebrate with the new mother her child. Yet, this child never cared for all those precious gifts, not because he did not recognize their value, but he consoled himself “That my Kingdom is not of this world”.

What is this latent secret of this child? Mankind is known for celebrating the wealthy and glorifying the Noble and the might, and baby Jesus was born humble and unknown. Yet, we find humanity in its entirety, glorifying, honoring and welcoming Him as they do to God’s!

That is because Jesus came with Sam’s principal; He came to this world with a new spirit and started to bring life amongst people’s ranks. He paid close attention to the weak and the poor. He came to wipe off their suffering and tears, and to solace the sad at time where the thrones of kings and ceasers were collapsing, and rocked edifice of the greatest and the powerful and toppled the idols made by the humble idol worshippers.

All those thrones were only based upon the heads of the oppressed, and those edifices would only be built upon the corpses of the miserable and those idols were set for foreign gods.

Very few those who fathomed the secret of this dignified child’s life, and fewer are those who learned his glory that was revealed to the children of this land and this indigenous interments.

The newborn of Bethlehem brought to this world something more valuable than all gemstones and all treasures … He arrived to this world with freedom on his right, the love of all people and the enemy of all kings. He gave it and resurrected them into a thriving life filled with good deeds.

Jesus only lived one life on this land and left it, but the principles He planted on this land has prospered and grown and bear fruit to the people, and when people tasted its sweetness, and enjoyed its pleasantness, they hailed to their holiness and greatness.

This dignified child lived a life different than the lives of the wised legists. He never spoke to the world of mysteries and secrets that no one can solve but the great philosophers, but He spoke of simple tongue because He did not only speak to the people of His time but to the nations coming after his time.

He did not flattered the humanity with sweet words, and never said what satisfies them and gain their love, but rather His words were spears into the hearts and souls of those who surrendered to slavery and subservience, and their eyes were blurred with curtains of blind customs … Those words that lifted the chains of serfdom and darkness, stormed and shredded the corrupt society that once was crippled with heavy subjugation imposed by the corrupt kings.

And you, the Dignified Child,
If you were ignored through eras, you were known through greater other ages, and if the people do not repeat your name, and surrendered to the customs that time framed them around your name, you are the the immortal for your principles live forever, and the humanity you guided and resurrected from indolence and despotism, and will forever be in debt to you for it’s freedom and peace as long as the heavens recite in this day of ever year “Glory be to God in the highest and on earth peace and in good pleasure people”.

With Love,


Mosul’s Muslims to its Christians: Come Back To Your Home

The Christians have always been and will always be one of the essential groups that construct the Mosuli fabric. A social fabric that is not only limited to the city itself, but extends to the entire Nineveh valley. This fabric stood for centuries, way before modern day Iraq itself, has been there for generations, and no invasion, throughout hthe history of Mosul and the surrounding towns have always stood together to protect their existence. This city and its community stood every crisis came at it.

Today, after dark times passed by, which reached it’s climax in the past three years, this is Mosul that ISIS wanted to break: the city’s Muslims calling upon the city’s Christians to return and tell them: the city is ready for your return and set to celebrate Christmas and conduct the Mass with you. As Mosul and its vecenety celebrate freedom and Christmas, trees are decorated, churches are renovated and prepared, hand in hand by Muslims and Christians, to hold masses at Christmas night, and the spirit and joy of the holidays fill the air, and this is the spirit that will carry on for ages ahead

Mosul cannot be itself without all its components; it is not Mosul without it’s Christians, Yazidis, Shabak, and the rest. It is not Mosul if the churches’ bells do not rang along with the call for prayers from mosques, and trees are decorated at every home, regardless of religious preference.

Merry Christmas to you all, home and abroad

Christmas returns to Mosul

I learned that his holiness the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church patriarch Luis Rafael I. Sako will perform the Christmas sermon at the Church of Our Lady in Mosul. This is one of the exciting news for Mosul and its people.

The church’s bells will ring, and the surrounding mousques will call where all Mosul’s worshipping places have lived in peace and harmony for thousands of years, and will carry on with peace for generations to come as they always were, different sects and religions,, lived next to each other without conflicts.

Bashir Al-Ssaqal is one of Mosul’s prominent clergymen where the Church of Our Lady clergy were very close friends, more than other. He used to intervene as delegate to resolve any conflicts that occur amongst the people of Mosul. This is the face of Mosul that Mosul needs to be recognized with, where different religions live side by side in peace where religion does not make any difference in their relations with one another, and with tolerance where the poised do not meddle with the non-poised, for the freedom of belief and speech is granted and guaranteed for all. Yet, the best is to witness all take their part in rebuilding the city and stabilize it.

I also known Father Najib Michael, Our Lady church curator, and I know his efforts in protecting the church that is not only a Christian landmark, but also a precious Mosuli symbol. I hope that he will go back to his beloved Mosul during this sermon, as he always likes to call Mosul.

With Love


Finally .. My Face is Out in The Open

“I can’t be anonymous anymore. This is to say that I defeated ISIS. You can see me now, and you can know me now.”

I am 31 years old.

My name is Omar Mohammed, and I am a scholar.

I told my mother that her Omar is Mosul Eye, she cried, wished she was close to me to give me hug, she said: I knew there was something going on with you!

My interview with Associated Press ..

“He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul.

He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city.

He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the ground floor.

“I am leaving,” he said.

“Where?” she asked.

“I am leaving,” was all he could say.

He couldn’t endanger her by telling her anything more. In truth, since the IS had invaded his city, he’d lived a life about which she was totally unaware.

He felt her eyes on the back of his neck, and headed to the waiting Chevrolet. He didn’t look back.”

Many times I lived those moments where I (as Mosul Eye) retweeted my article which was written by (Omar Mohammed), Now I can say this is me :) I am free, stronger than before, and shall always work to revive our Mosuli identity.

The rest of the interview you can find it on APNews link below:

The message of Mosul Eye reached the world appropriately

The war was still raging in Mosul. Most of the city was under fire. Then, the moment I learned about the liberation of the University of Mosul and its central library, I launched an international campaign to rescue and revive the library and donate books to reopen it. Many thought that I am a madman, who thinks of books while war is at it’s climax? What value books have while mankind is easily killed? Many questions were asked, but I was sure and certain what value lies in books and libraries. It is not as much about the books; it is more about who read those books, or who wrote them. Since ISIS deliberately destroyed and torched the library, it was mainly targeting the human kind in Mosul.

It was only a statement of 140 characters on Twitter when I said: “our central library is liberated, but it is burned to ashes, are you willing to donate books to it!”

The response was as I expected. It was shocking, but was beautiful and carried lots of meaningful thoughts: thousands of people respond to the call, willing to donate. In less than a month, Mosul Eye’s call became an international and reached it’s goals very quickly. The only goal I was aiming for in this campaign was: reconnecting Mosul with its international domain, not stay limited to it’s locale.

Two days ago, I received an invitation from Charles University at the Czech republic where they held a special day for Mosul in their response to Mosul Eye’s campaign and call to revive the University and the University’s central library without advance notice. It was a surprise. The audience was diverse: there were academics, students, citizens, men and women of various ages, elderly and children. And one single question dawned on me: why are they interested in Mosul?

The answer was easy: One wants to live in peace and security does not care of other people’s religious, ethic, or sect backgrounds, and just interact with others simply on their humane value.

Young people prepared traditional food to sell it during the event they named #MosulDay to contribute their earnings to the support of Mosul’s libraries.

Other academics introduced their work and attempts to preserve Mosul’s heritage and relics by utilizing academic and technical methods to develop 3-d prototypes to assist in regaining what the city lost of it’s heritage.

The Iraqi ambassador Waleed Shiltagh, praiseworthy, was present at the event and provided an Iraqi cuisine as a gesture of appreciation to the guests and the event organizers.

The founder of Mosul Eye gave a speech in the event, thanking the organizers and the audience for this event and expressing his gratitude and the necessity of this event to the people of Mosul as a gesture of a message well received.

Mosul Eye provides its great thank to the staff of Philosophy, Oriental Studies, Archeology, History, and Humanities Studies departments at Charles University and special thanks to the University’s library and its staff for their kind gesture.

Special thanks to the organizers of the campaign: Dr. Clara Rösslerová and the civil activist Nadá Aliová

Special thanks goes to:
• Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, Jan Palach Library.
• Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, Celetná Library,.
• Charles University in Prague, T. G. Masaryk Social Sciences Library.

Mosul was present there, and we shall continue our international campaign to revive Mosul and its heritage


The founder of Mosul Eye

A Hospital crying for Patients, What is it Waiting for?

Prime Minister Haider Abadi

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Mrs. Adila Hamoud,

Minister of Health Mr. MP for the province of Nineveh Fares Albrefkani

Dear Mr. Mohamed Alabbar Ms. Basma Basim,

respected Mr. Mizahim Al – Khayyat

Mr. Director General of the health of Nineveh

Distinguished gentlemen and ladies,

As you might be aware of the bad health situation in the city of Mosul as all health facilities were destroyed on the right side of the city, Ibn Sina Hospital, the Republican Hospital, Mosul General Hospital and health centers are all destroyed by 100%. On the left side of the city only the Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, which currently houses a dialysis center, a consultant to Al Salam Hospital and the Nineveh Health Department, has fully survived. Al Salam hospital was partially destroyed, and despite the survival of five buildings there was an order to be removed as we heard!

Ibn al-Atheir children hospital and Khansaa hospital after they have been burned by ISIS, now by efforts of the good people of Nineveh, with the Ministry of Health, the efforts of international organisations and the United Nations, we were able to rehabilitate the hospitals although there is still big shortages. The A&E department in Al Salam hospital has ten beds only. There are also a limited number of beds in Ibn al-Atheer hospital and Al-Khansaa hospital.

Today, there are no beds for over night stay at the hospitals in the whole city of Mosul (two million) and we have to transfer patients to the American hospital, Hamdania hospital, to the Kurdistan region and to Baghdad, not to mention the difficulties and the long time taken to do transfer of patients and some patients may be killed during the transfer as occurred during the military operations of liberation. In Mosul, there is a fully equipped, ready-to-use Turkish hospital with 500 beds or less.

As we know, there are a large number of operating theaters, MRI, ultrasound devices and a cancer treatment device. All of these are currently not available in any other hospital. This hospital (Turkish) have been build in agreement to be part of University of Mosul before the entering Of ISIS. This hospital is fully integrated and it can covers a large needs of the city and its staff is fully integrated and currently in the city. Additionally, this hospital was not affected by the military operations at all and all the devices are ready to serve immediately.

We hope you can facilitate and help to open this hospital for the sake of the people of Mosul as soon as possible and to overcome all the difficulties that lead to not opening it. You have the authority and the ability to issue the orders to open this hospital because of the lack of medical services in the city such as Cancer, blood diseases, critical operations and large emergency operations, because the rehabilitation of the other hospitals that partially and completely destroyed will take two to four years.

Please find attached the pictures of this hospital which I have downloaded from the internet.

we have left the order to save the lives and treat the wounded and the sick people of Mosul in your hands and God mercy

Dr. Saad Salem