In Pictures: The Revival of Mosul’ Old Bazaars

Old Mosul

The Old Bazaars of Old Mosul, where the heart of its social identity, has been severely damaged during the battle to retake the city from ISIS. For centuries, the Old Bazaars played a key role in preserving and developing a socio – economic system that maintained the the coexistence in Mosul. It served not just as an economic core for the city but brought all different groups of Mosul together in a very complicated but very sold social structure. In the markets we can learn, through out the history of Mosul, how Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities lived together and contributed to the shaping of Mosul’s identity.

It was also the area where the Mosuli dialect, Oral literature, and proverbs where produced. A very quick look into the book of Mosul’s proverbs can shed the light on thousands of proverbs related to the Old Bazaars.

Since the libration of Mosul and the locals were running initiatives to rebuild the Old Mosul and its markets. The rebuilding of Mosul Mosul is essential in rehabilitation and healing the wounds of the people who suffered from one of the most brutal wars the world have ever since the second world war.

And since the Old Bazaars are the place of coexistence, I argue that any efforts toward the reconciliations in post ISIS Mosul without taking into consideration the full recovery of Old Mosul and its Bazaars will result into nothing but more devastated and divided communities. As the Old Bazaars have brought Jewish, Christian and Muslim all together in one place where they communicate the language of collaboration and coexistence. It can also help the Yazidis to heal from their wounds as Old Mosul is their market of selling the Sinjar productions.

In those photos you will see the rehabilitation of three main markets in Old Mosul:

Serchkhana, Khalid B. Al Walid, and Nineveh St.

وثيقة: عهد الثقة لخلية ازمة نينوى

عهد الثقة

السادة اعضاء خلية الازمة في نينوى

الدكتور مزاحم الخياط – رئيس خلية الازمة

اللواء نجم الجبوري – قائد عمليات نينوى

اللواء الركن حمد نامس الجبوري – قائد شرطة نينوى

نحن مجموعة من ابناء نينوى أكاديميون ومهندسون ومحامون وأطباء وأرباب أعمال وموظفون من مختلف الأجيال والأطياف ندعوكم للتمسك ببقاء خلية الأزمة باعتبارها طوق نجاة المدينة وتجاوزها البيروقراطية التي لطالما تمتع بها مجلس محافظة نينوى. ولان أوضاع المدينة الاستثنائية تتطلب وجود خلية طوارئ بصلاحيات استثنائية فاننا نؤيد ونرغب ببقاء خلية الازمة التي أظهرت في وقت قصير قدرتها على التعامل مع الازمات اضافة لقرب جماهير نينوى منها ،منعا لاية  محاولات بيع ومتاجرة بالمناصب وحماية حقوق الناس ورد الحقوق لأهلها.

لقد قدم الاتحاد الأوروبي أكثر من ٢٥٠ مليون يورو اضافة الى اكثر من ٢٤٠ مليون دولار من الولايات المتحدة منحا دولية لاعمار نينوى ولكن المدينة لا تزال تعاني من الاهمال والخراب وكانت نتيجة حالات  الفساد ضحايا العبارة التي قتلت الأطفال والنساء والشباب في حين لاتزال جثث كثير منهم غير معروفة المصير. واننا اذ نؤيد الانتقال السلمي للسلطة والنظام السياسي الديمقراطي بوجود مجلس محافظة ومحافظ منتخبين ، الا اننا نرى ان وجود هكذا مجلس الان يعرقل عملية الإعمار فالمدينة بحاجة الى لجنة طواريء يثق بها الجمهور والمجتمع الدولي.

والى ابناء نينوى وبناتها فإن هذه الوثيقة اعدت بعد مشاورات كثيرة من أفراد لا يطمحون لسلطة أو منصب ولا ينتمون لجهة سياسية او حزب وانما نحن من ابناء هذه البلدة الطيبة نريد الخير لأهلها فإن كان هذا الكلام مما يرتضي رأيكم فهو لكم ولأجلكم ويمكنكم وضع اسمائكم و تواقيعكم أدناه.

لأجل هذا وقعنا في الموصل – نينوى

الثامن عشر من نيسان ٢٠١٩

عمر محمد

مؤسس عين الموصل

Mosul Eye Report: Mosul Ferry Tragedy

As holiday turns into tragedy, a call for urgent review of local and international reconstruction efforts in Mosul

March 21 marks the combined holidays of Nowruz and Mother’s Day in Iraq, celebrations of spring, renewal and life. Families go on picnics and nature outings. A special favorite of people from Mosul and the surrounding area is a visit to Mosul Tourist Island, with its nature park and attractions for children.

Instead, corruption, negligence, incompetence and complicity turned what should have been a joyous day into an unimaginable tragedy for many families, the city and country. Unfortunately, it’s likely an ominous sign of more disasters to come if immediate actions to ensure public safety are not taken.

In the afternoon of Thursday March 21, a cable ferry with a capacity of fifty and apparently made from a portion of an out-of-service military floating bridge was packed with 287 people, mostly children and their mothers intending to cross the Tigris River to the small island. The U.S. military gave equipment to the Iraqi security forces like floating bridges, which are usually fastened in a chain. On this day, the ferry was supposed to have been guided by cables on each side for what should have been a quick three-minute trip across the river.

The scenes that follow, however, are horrifying. Bystander videos show one of the cables break just after the ferry takes off, causing water to flood into one side. Because the base of the ferry appears to be part of something like these military floating bridges intended to be connected to other units rather than floating alone, it quickly rocks back and forth and then overturns completely. Those aboard are violently thrown from side to side and then directly into the fast-moving water from the vessel, which was not equipped with life jackets, buoys or rafts.

The currents were especially heavy as the gates to the Mosul Dam had been opened just days before the incident, sending torrents of water downstream and causing a higher than normal water level. The Mosul Dam Administration had informed Tourist Island’s operator that opening the gates could cause parts of the island to be submerged, and that it should be closed during this period. Apparently, his instruction was not heeded.

Most of the women and children aboard the capsized ferry couldn’t swim. Images painful to watch show them bouncing up and down as they tried to keep their heads above the water. The River Police that patrol the Tigris River do not usually travel with emergency evacuation and recovery equipment. The Fire Department arrived on the scene with limited ability to help, as their officers are not trained in water search and rescue operations, also couldn’t swim, and were without life vests or rafts. Further, the Iraqi military helicopter that was sent could not deploy its people on a rescue mission, as its propulsion further stirred the currents and only moved the drowning bodies, especially the small children, faster downstream. Instead, local fishermen who had boats on the river and knew the area’s intricacies, acted fast and rescued many people who were brought to nearby hospitals with various injuries. Around fifty persons were rescued this way. When they arrived, children were covered with blankets rather than being treated immediately, resulting in more deaths. The progressive deterioration of Iraq’s health system has been well documented, and hospitals are chronically short of supplies, medication, equipment, and qualified medical staff, especially in paediatric care. At least 100 people are confirmed dead, with many more missing and likely never to be found.

Mosul Tourist Island under reconstruction, January 2018

Mosul Tourist Island was opened after 2003 by private developers and is especially busy on holidays and weekends for its children’s amusement park, cafes and outdoor restaurants. It is the only recreational area in the city of its kind. Tourist Island remained operational under ISIS’ occupation of the city, and its owner paid substantial taxes to the group’s financial authorities. It suffered damage during the fighting, but was reopened in mid-2018 after reconstruction. Mosul’s Administration of Tourism has now informed the public that Tourist Island has never actually operated with a license. Apparently, there have been no inspections of its equipment––especially frightening as Tourist Island also operates a ferris wheel beloved by children––and no safety training for its staff. Local Kurdish police are reported to have arrested the island’s operator allegedly trying to flee Mosul for the nearby northern city of Duhok, and additional arrests in the incident have also been reported.

The tragedy has galvanized and enraged the public for its emotive scenes of drowning children and their mothers. Mosul residents converged in protests at the site of the deadly incident on Friday demanding answers, an investigation, and denouncing Iraq’s endemic corruption. In recent days, eight reconstructed bridges connecting the banks of the Tigris River and other locations collapsed in the city! Rebuilt roads have also buckled and sunk under the seasonal rains. Iraq’s president, prime minister and parliamentary spokesman made emergency visits to Mosul on Friday, with Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi briefly meeting with victims in the hospital. When the governor of Nineveh Nofal Al-Akoub––widely viewed as corrupt and using reconstruction projects for personal benefit––arrived at the scene of the protests, his luxury car was pelted. The Range Rover even appeared to intentionally hit a young journalist, Laith Al Rashidi, whose injuries were so severe he was evacuated to the hospital, and another bystander. The governor has since been removed from his post, although that was rumoured well before this incident. The government convoy caused further traffic chaos and danger in the city, as there was only one functioning bridge across the river after the others fell!

Sadly, a member of Mosul Eye’s team was also caught up in the disaster. Aya’s mother, sister and baby brother were all killed, while she and her sister suffered injuries and were rescued. Aya’s unbearable loss is shared by all of us as she tries to recover her life and look to the future. There must be more to offer Mosul’s young generation than this!

The UNDP, European Commission, USAID and other international donors are funding many Mosul reconstruction projects, but questions must be raised as to how these funds are being allocated to the government and implemented on-site. What are the international donors’ mechanisms of project oversight in Mosul, and how can taxpayers in faraway capitals ensure their funds are being used to actually support reconstruction and development in Iraq, rather than more corruption and projects that endanger the public?

In response to the March 21 ferry disaster, Mosul Eye calls for the following:

1.    An independent and transparent investigation of the March 21, 2019 ferry tragedy and the bringing of all guilty persons and their accomplices to justice

2.    Immediate safety inspections based on standards of internationally recognized accreditation bodies in construction of all reconstruction projects in the city (roads, bridges, water, sanitation, energy/electricity, schools and hospitals) as well as newly established private sector public-use establishments (shopping malls, recreational centers, etc.)

3.    A public explanation of the government’s business licensing practices, especially those for recreational establishments like Tourist Island, as well as public health and safety inspection procedures

4.    For international donors: A public release of your sponsorship of reconstruction and development projects in the city and an inquiry whether international donor funds were used to support Mosul Tourist Island’s reconstruction and, if so, how this project was implemented locally

5.   For UN agencies and iNGOs working in the city: To review and make public your procedures for safeguarding reconstruction and development funds from supporting corruption, protection rackets, extortion and armed groups, and an explanation of how your organizations implement projects in the city

6.   To know which government authority is responsible for training and equipping civil protection units in search and rescue operations on land and water and why this has apparently not been achieved in Mosul/Nineveh

7.  As the cable ferry appears likely to have actually been made from a portioned off out-of-use “military floating bridge”, a public accounting of how military-grade equipment reaches the private sector. Who in the Iraqi military has the authority to sell such equipment to the private entities and what laws regulate this?

8.   Support to the March 21 ferry tragedy victims and their families of all medical-related costs, including long-term physical therapy and trauma counselling as needed

The 287 innocent people who boarded that ferry, many of them small children and mothers seeking only to celebrate a holiday together outdoors, the injured and the dead, and their grieving families deserve accountability and transparency. So to do the city’s residents and all Iraqis. Actions, not words, are urgently required to ensure public safety during this critical reconstruction period.

Help me to give Mosul the Knowledge it deserves!

“Let it Be a Book, Rising from the Ashes” – Mosul Eye

You can contribute here : Fundraising for Mosul: Knowledge for Mosul

Mosul’s many libraries used to be housing the most precious and valuable manuscripts and rare prints in the region, and its libraries used to be the destination for anyone who’s looking for those treasures. And in a devastating assault on the humanity heritage in Mosul, ISIL devastated Mosul’s libraries, among the devastation it inflicted on the city, wrecking those libraries by stealing, destroying and burning those treasures, under different excuses. Once as “useless science”, another as “Illegitimate science”, and last but not least, “blasphemous books”!
The only copy of Encyclopaedia of Islam in Mosul was destroyed by ISIS when they destroyed the library. Help me to give Mosul a copy of E.J. Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936
Read More: 
This Man Is Trying To Rebuild A Library Burned Down By ISIS
Read more about me: Chronicler of Islamic State ‘killing machine’ goes public

You can contribute here : Fundraising for Mosul: Knowledge for Mosul

ISIS killed three brothers in west Mosul

ISIS fighters in military uniform killed on Jan 5, 2019 three brothers who were members of PMU in Mosul in Zanjili district. the three brothers who belong to Jammasa tribe (‘Umair) family in Zanjili were ambushed by ISIS fighters who claim they were from the Iraqi military and asked them to go to another place for a military mission. They then were taken to their house and kidnapped with their wives. the three brothers were beheaded. the Wives were released today.

Most Needed Books in Mosul

We have received a list from students at the University of Mosul of the most needed books for their study, they cannot find the books in Mosul after the library was destroyed. We are Kindly asking for your help to resupply the students with these books.

Please contact us if you can provide some or all the needed books.

omar@mosul-eye.org

Omar Mohammed

Historian and Founder of Mosul Eye

To the UK FCO: For the sake of knowledge and the memory of Wilfrid J. FARRELL and his family.

Dear UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office,

In 1919, the British Captain Wilfrid Jerome FARRELL (1882-1960)*, who was then in charge of the education administration in Iraq, came to Mosul and published an announcement in Al -Mawsil newspaper calling upon the Mosulis to donate books for his project to build a public library in the city. The people of Mosul immediately responded, and Farrell achieved his goal. A public library then was established and opened thanks to his effort in collaboration with the city. This is so similar to what we’re doing now to revive the libraries of Mosul through the Mosul Eye project that connected the city to the world through books just as Farrell aimed to do.

In 2014, ISIS occupied Mosul and did great damage to the library. In 2017, the governor of Mosul wanted to use the building as a court. We launched a campaign to stop him, and we did!


Now the public library is suffering and is almost abandoned. It had a significant role in establishing public education in Mosul. The library contains some of the rarest documents and manuscripts anywhere in the world. It contains all of the press publications from Mosul since the 18th century and private collections that were donated to Farrell upon his request in 1919. Like the old Iron Bridge of Mosul, also built by the British, the library is an example of cordial relations between Mosul and the UK.

In the absence of the Central Library of the University of Mosul, city residents have no other option, but to use Farrell’s library. They are desperate to get access to the library, which cannot provide its services due to a lack of management and basic library equipment as the current government has stopped funding it.
We now kindly ask you to protect and preserve this historic library.
For the sake of knowledge and the memory of Wilfrid Jerome FARRELL and his family.

Yours Sincerely,

Omar Mohammed, Historian and Founder of Mosul Eye

*Please see his publication: “Pedagogue’s progress: reminiscences of Mesopotamia, Transcaucasia,and Palestine.” Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. GB165-0104.

“Mosul Will Never Be the Same”

An Interview with Omar Mohammed

published in MER287

The interview on the Middle East Research and Information Project website

In June 2014, the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched an assault on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Within days, the Iraqi army collapsed and ISIS proclaimed its sovereignty over the city. An anonymous blog named Mosul Eye began reporting on life under ISIS rule. With details about daily life alongside social and historical analysis, Mosul Eye documented the transformations that ISIS imposed on Mosul—including the expulsion of Shiites and Christians, the enslavement of Yazidis, strict gender segregation, rape, torture and executions—as well as the impact of air strikes by the US, Turkish, and Iraqi militaries. Coalition forces defeated ISIS in July 2017. Five months later, historian Omar Mohammed revealed that he was the anonymous Mosul Eye. MERIP Editorial Committee member Andy Clarno spoke to him by phone on May 22, 2018.

– Could you begin by speaking about the processes that created the conditions for ISIS to gain power in Mosul?

– Before I speak of this, let me say something important. Mosul wasn’t destroyed in 2014. Mosul has been systematically destroyed since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. But there is a difference between destruction by a terrorist group like ISIS and destruction by a government. After World War I, the British succeeded in having the city recognized as part of Iraq. Many Ottoman buildings were demolished—first under the British Mandate and later under King Faisal. This destruction became a pattern. Every new government tried to hide or demolish what was left by the former government. After 1958, the new republican government destroyed symbols of British and Hashemite power in Mosul. And when the Baath Party came to power in 1968, they wanted to demolish symbols of the royal and republican regimes. So, Mosul wasn’t destroyed in 2014. With ISIS, the destruction was more obvious because they destroyed buildings, historical sites and the whole history of the city. This was the last stage of destruction.

– What was happening that created the conditions for ISIS to gain power in Mosul?

– Back in the 1990s, Saddam’s regime began what is known as the Faith Campaign, which sought to build support for the regime through a more open embrace of salafi Islam. Northwest Mosul was an important base of Salafism. South of Mosul is another area where Salafism was growing quickly because this kind of ideology—Salafism, Wahhabism or extremism—found a perfect environment to flourish.

Saddam gave tribal sheikhs from these regions power in the city, power over the urban population. And with that power, they brought extremism into the city. Over time, Mosul became a more tribal city. There was no longer any need to go to the courts because sheikhs would resolve problems through a kind of reconciliation between tribal leaders.

Historically, Mosul had conservative religious beliefs, but it was Sufi. Sufism was part of our societal traditions, and politically it wasn’t extremist. If we remained with the old Sufism, we wouldn’t have ISIS. But when Saddam brought Salafism to Mosul, everything changed. Mosul was a city that used to celebrate the coexistence of diverse cultures, a city that had Christians, Yazidis, Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs, Kurds, liberals and women who didn’t wear the hijab or niqab. All of this changed as the city became more conservative, more salafi.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, all of the tribal sheikhs, Baath Party officials and salafi leaders in the city lost power. This was the context for the emergence of a second generation of salafi leaders. They weren’t with the tribes that supported Saddam. They included former members of the Baath Party, including military commanders and soldiers who lost their jobs. This Salafism was more highly organized than before. In 2004, we saw the first attacks against the US Army in Mosul.

By mid–2004, we began to hear about al-Qaeda in Iraq and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

After the US invasion, those who opposed al-Qaeda and Salafism left Mosul, leaving it abandoned. When I say Mosul, I mean the city with a civilian government, a social structure and coexistence. That city couldn’t survive. Conflict began to arise between tribes, but Mosul was in the hands of the jihadis by 2005. By then, it was normal to see the name of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Death became normal. It’s sad, but if a day went by and we didn’t see a corpse in the street, a dead body, a beheaded man or a burnt car, we would say: What happened? Why didn’t anything happen today?

Was ISIS already collecting taxes at that time?

– Not very much. They were more focused on oil because trucks were moving oil from Mosul to Syria and Kurdistan. This was their main source of income.

The civil war that flared up in Iraq from 2006 to 2008 gave the jihadis more reasons to recruit people. In 2010, their power decreased because of a government offensive. At that time, the eastern part of Mosul was safer because it was completely controlled by the government. But there was trouble in the western part of the city, where ISIS had a stronger presence.

In 2011, there were a few months of peace. The number of burnt cars decreased. We were able to go to parks, to travel to Baghdad or Kurdistan, to see foreign journalists. But later that year, the US Army withdrawal from Iraq was the kiss of death for Mosul because it enabled ISIS to reemerge.

From 2011 to 2015, ISIS was collecting taxes on a daily basis. My brother, who died during the battle when a mortar shell hit his house, had to pay taxes to ISIS every month. One time, we had to pay the ISIS fighters with an Iraqi army checkpoint just ten meters away. But we couldn’t report it to the police or the army because ISIS would kill us. They already had access to the police administration. And many people who reported threats by ISIS were found dead in the street.

Overall, several processes came together to create the conditions for ISIS to take power. In addition to ISIS’s growing presence, there was increasing corruption and sectarianism within the Iraqi government and the security forces and growing conflict between the local and federal governments. The area between Mosul and Tel Afar was under the control of the Turkmen wing of ISIS, which was based in Tel Afar. In Mosul, whenever you mentioned the Turkmen—the local term was ʿAafari, someone from Tel Afar—it necessarily meant the Islamists, because they had their foot in the city.

So ISIS didn’t occupy Mosul in June 2014, it was already occupying the city; June 2014 was simply the announcement of ISIS rule. The Iraqi army left so quickly because it was ready to collapse. I didn’t expect any other result. I would have been more surprised if things took a different direction and there was peace in Mosul.

– Your blog, Mosul Eye, provided an important lens into life and death in a city under ISIS rule. Looking back, can you reflect on the changes that took place in the city under ISIS—through the displacement of Christians, the enslavement of Yazidis, gender segregation, rape, execution, stoning, torture and air strikes by the United States, Turkey and the Iraqi government?

– I want to be optimistic. I hope the city will restore its normal life and there will again be civil society in Mosul. But to be honest, the social structure of Mosul was completely destroyed. We will never again see the same social structure. Even if Christians decide to go back or Yazidis decide to forgive or Sunnis decide to forgive not only ISIS but also those who caused the problem, Mosul will never be the same again.

– Obviously there was death and fear and distrust, yet somehow people continued living amidst the destruction. Can you talk about how people navigated the death around them while trying to create space for life and human relationships?

– To talk about this, we have to understand that there were different periods under ISIS rule. ISIS applied its law gradually. Ultimately, ISIS began killing people, executing people, torturing people, beheading people. And what happened to Yazidis, Christians and Sunnis gave the people of Mosul a clear understanding of what ISIS was really about. But until the middle of September 2014, ISIS did not completely control life in the city. And people in Mosul didn’t fully understand what was going on. They were still trying to understand ISIS. And ISIS ran the city in ways that corresponded to what people wanted from government. People wanted the government to give them freedom and to end sectarianism and corruption. Most importantly, ISIS worked on providing services and jobs. Of course, this was because jobs provided people with money that ISIS could collect through taxes.

ISIS had a more effective and responsive bureaucracy than the Iraqi government. If people had problems, they would go to ISIS, and ISIS would resolve their problems. ISIS told people that they could live peacefully as long as they followed orders and didn’t work against them. Many ordinary people found that they could continue living their lives. They had services. They had their shops. They had their lives. And many people found new jobs.

Perhaps the most important thing of all (and this says a lot about ISIS and how they understood the system), ISIS brought back the thing that had been missing since 2003: assistance to farmers. People in the western and northwestern parts of Nineveh province were able to return to their agricultural lives. Many people, especially the tribes and farmers, saw this as an opportunity. No government since 2003 had provided them with the support they needed.

– Was the agricultural crisis part of the reason so many people had moved from rural areas into the city?

– Yes.

– OK. But the first impression started to fade after a few months.

– Of course. ISIS followed a familiar pattern of oppression. They recruited spies in the community, so people stopped trusting one another. They weaponized history to advance their narrative. Then they took their terror to another level. They displaced Christians, enslaved Yazidis, killed Shiites, killed Sunnis. ISIS tried to smash the ancient bonds of coexistence between Mosul’s communities. For 4000 years, my city was a city of culture, coexistence, and life. Mosul was a city with a big heart, home to all of its children. The damage caused by ISIS was immense. Life in the Mosul that I knew came to a halt.

Many people became victims during this second period as ISIS exposed its other face. There were more executions and more rules. ISIS became more focused on extracting money and revenue. Yes, ISIS still provided jobs, but it demanded money. Whatever income you took from your job would go back to ISIS through taxes. People also had to pay for services. You had to pay for everything. Along with oil, this was a major source of revenue for ISIS.

ISIS destroyed the history and heritage of all of Mosul’s communities. They tried to replace it with their own version of history. They forced women into captivity. They banned music. And they imposed new social classes based upon jihadist loyalty.

Before ISIS, we had the middle class, the elite, tribes and workers. All of this changed under ISIS. The new social classes were, first, as ISIS called them, the mujahideen, the fighters. They were local members of ISIS, historically known as ansar (supporters), which means people from the city who joined ISIS. They were privileged, the high class. The second class were the foreign fighters. They also had a good deal. The third class were supporters but not necessarily members of ISIS. The fourth class were the commoners, or the ammaas ISIS called them: normal, ordinary people. ISIS always referred to this as the class that produced apostates, spies, jawasis. My family and I became amma. We were always suspected by ISIS and addressed as cowards.

This new class system completely changed life in Mosul. Those who had been in the middle or upper class lost everything. It no longer mattered what name you had or what family you were from. Everything was about whether or not you were a member of ISIS.

– Were most of the ansar from a particular class background?

– Many of those who became high class were from the tribes or the working class. You see, ISIS changed the whole system. And this hasn’t ended. Now, after the defeat of ISIS, there is another class structure. The new upper class is composed of those who worked against ISIS. The second class are those whose family members were killed by ISIS—the victims of ISIS. The third class are those who remained in Mosul—the amma. And the fourth class are those who left the city. It is like they don’t deserve the victory and are not considered part of the liberation.

And now, the upper class is not only made up of people from Mosul, but also people who came from outside to fight against ISIS. They have the right to do whatever they want because they are in the new upper class.

Another social class has emerged after the liberation, made up of people who joined ISIS and their families. They have been excluded from the new society, just like what ISIS did to the Christians, Yazidis and Sunnis who worked against them. In the new situation, people who joined ISIS and their families—even if the family members did not join or support ISIS—are excluded from the new society.

– During the three years of ISIS rule in Mosul, did people from working class backgrounds and rural areas change their views about ISIS? Or did they continue supporting the project?

– For the tribes, it’s kind of changing. Some tribes supported ISIS because they saw an opportunity for agriculture and for support against old enemies. This is especially true in the northwest which was a disputed area. Many Sunni tribes were deported from these areas after 2003. They supported ISIS because ISIS brought them back to their villages.

After two years, some tribes withdrew their support when they realized that ISIS was not what they had expected. They shifted their support to the Iraqi government.

But there are hundreds of individuals, especially religious people, who still support ISIS and believe in the caliphate. Also, the children and relatives of ISIS members who were killed feel abandoned and want revenge still support ISIS.

Social relations are becoming complicated in Mosul because the real problems were not solved. The government came to Mosul and took the city back from ISIS, but they just defeated ISIS on the ground. They didn’t address the problems that led to the emergence of ISIS. And they are ignoring the consequences of ISIS rule and the battle for liberation.

Mosul is now divided in two. The division happened during the battle, because ISIS withdrew from the eastern side several months before they were defeated in the west. Now there are people from the western side of Mosul and people from the east. Mosul is no longer a single city. And there are more social problems and conflicts. I don’t know what will happen in the next few years, but the city will not be the same.

– During the battle to liberate Mosul, you predicted that ISIS would not withdraw from the city but would instead stay and fight. In retrospect, you were right. The battle involved heavy destruction, including thousands of homes and all of the bridges over the Tigris. Was there another way to end ISIS rule without the further destruction of Mosul?

– They had options, not just one option. When the Iraqi security forces and the international coalition decided to retake Mosul, they planned to retake the east side and then move to the west side from north and south. They wanted to open a corridor to the western part of Nineveh province to push ISIS toward Syria. They thought it would be easier to fight in the desert or along the Iraq–Syria border. But Assad was gaining control over more areas in Syria at that time and the Iranian–backed Popular Mobilization Units decided to block the corridor. There was no way to push ISIS out of the city.

Still, they had many other options. If you go back to Mosul Eye, I even described the situation with maps. But no one was listening. They decided to besiege the Old City of Mosul on the west bank. They bombed the Old City for months even though they knew that the houses could be destroyed with just one bullet. And you can see the consequences. We lost our city just so they could say they defeated ISIS. Yes, of course, thank you for defeating ISIS. But at what cost?

– It has been nearly one year since the last ISIS strongholds fell in the Old City. What is the current status of efforts to rebuild Mosul and enable the return of the displaced?

– There has not been much effort to rebuild the infrastructure, just basic services, especially in the eastern part of the city. This is part of the conflict between East and West. The East wasn’t as badly damaged and is getting back to life, while the West is still suffering.

The Old City is completely destroyed. Just two weeks ago they excavated more than 1,000 corpses that were beneath the rubble in the Old City, including children, women and elders. I believe we still have more than 5,000 bodies to find.

Even with these difficulties, western Mosul is getting back to life. People are eager to go back. There has been less in the Old City. A few people decided to go back to their old markets, but no more than ten or 20 shops have been rebuilt. No one buys anything because there are simply no people in the Old City.

To be honest, rebuilding is easy. People can rebuild their city and go back to their lives. They just need some money. If the government provided more money, the city would come back to life. But historic Mosul is gone. UNESCO received money from the United Arab Emirates to rebuild the al-Nuri Mosque and some other historical sites. But Mosul will not be the same. The city with a diverse society and a longstanding social structure is gone. Now, in my opinion, Mosul is only pictures and memories.

– Do you think there are any prospects for rebuilding the diverse city of Mosul with Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Kurd, Yazidis and Christians?

– No.

Cities have always played such an important role, not just in Iraq, but throughout the region. What role do you envision cities like Mosul playing in the future of Iraq?

– There is no positive result of any war. But the only good thing that happened in Iraq after the destruction of Mosul is that now, for the first time in 15 years, we see the people of Iraq seeking their national identity.

You have people saying that Mosul was sacrificed to retrieve the national identity. During the Iraqi election in May, we had for the first time a national discourse between Mosul and Basra, Baghdad and Najaf. It is no longer about Shiite or Sunni. It is about whether or not we can rebuild a national identity in Iraq.

In Mosul, all Iraqi blood was mixed together. You had Sunni blood, Yazidi, Shiite, Christian, Arab, Kurd, Turkman. All of the Iraqi blood was mixed in the ground of Mosul. As a citizen of Mosul, I would accept the destruction of my city to see an Iraqi national identity rebuilt.

– That’s a powerful vision. But as you said before, the real problems have not been addressed: There is still the question of what it will take to address those conditions.

– We have something new happening in Mosul now. We have a growing youth movement. It will take a few years for this movement to organize itself, for the youth to recognize themselves as a force that can create change.

When it comes to history, to our previous society, that was destroyed. When it comes to the future, I’m talking about a new city. And to be completely honest, I am no longer a part of the city. This is not my city anymore. My city is gone.

But in the near future you will see more national discourse. People are recalling their history and their good memories to seek a new national identity. They are thinking about the past and what happened in Mosul and searching for a better future. Hopefully, this will lead to a new system in Iraq. This is the first time for young people from Mosul to visit Karbala or Najaf, the so-called Shiite cities, and for people from there to visit Mosul.

Right now, I am preparing an appeal to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other political leaders to announce the new government in Mosul. If they really want to change Iraq, they should go to the sacrificed city and announce their new government in Mosul. This could give hope for a future, for a new Iraq. Not the Iraq of 2003. A completely new Iraq with a new system. We will not be able to change the constitution or the corrupt politicians. But after what happened to Mosul, this election could provide an opportunity to build a national identity in Iraq. It seems to me that, for the first time, Iraqis have agreed on the necessity of having a national identity.

no

Academics Vs. Terrorists – How Terrorism hijacked the University of Mosul and how the academics liberated it

A wave of looting took over Iraq after the collapse of the Iraqi regime in 2003, known among Iraqis by “Hawasim” (translated to ‘Termination’ or ‘severance’), in reference to the name of the battle Saddam Hussain gave to his last battle in which he lost his regime. And any one participated in that looting is referred to by this name “Hawasim”. At that time, the university of Mosul was the most targeted victim of those waves of lootings. Huge groups of people invaded the university and just start to loot anything they were capable of carrying. And the central library was the most looted place of all (ISIS bombed it in 2016). The university’s staff and academics tried to stop the looters and protect the library, but the looters were armed, and no one was able to stop them but another armed group (they were armed citizens); the academics were not able to stop the looting until the “good armed guys” were able to bring the plundered books back to the library, and the library staff began to rearrange them back.

I witnessed those events with my father who tried, unavailingly, to rescue the library with the rest of its staff. I saw his tears running down his face as he was trying to stop an old woman dragging a box filled with books from plundering it. He stopped her asking what is she going to do with those books and she yelled to his face “this is our share!” She did not realize that what was she dragging were actually books!!. A year after that incident, the situation started to settle relatively, and the university of Mosul went back to normal business. At that time I was still young to attend college, but I was able to go to the university through escorting my sister who used to study there. Because of the unsettling security situation, I had to escort my sister in the morning to her classes and return back in the afternoon to escort her back home. And on my way back and forth to the university, I was asking myself the question: “why the academics couldn’t stop the looters from looting the university?”

Years passed by and I became officially a college student in 2007, studying history at the department of history there. Four months into my studying and developing my passion of Arabic and Islamic manuscripts with Prof. Jaafar Sadiq and I received the shocking news: Alqaeda terrorists assasined the professor on April 16, 2007. I was in shock for a whole week then I started with a group of students to protest inside the university demanding to open an investigation on the killing of the professor. The response came even more shocking to me: “if you don’t stop your protest, you will be apprehended!”, The head of security at the college of Arts said to me. Then the students started to walk up on me and I protested alone. I continued my demands to bring those who are responsible for the death of my professor to justice, and his killing remains a mystery until today.

Since 2007, the university became a safe heaven for the terrorists. They attempted to kill the dean of the college of dentistry Dr. Tahani Sanduq. They attempted to kill many active students and professors inside the university as well. They had the authority to reach out everywhere they wished in the university. This was the second time where the voice of weapons rises over the voice of reason and science. I continued to look for a convincing answer to my question: why did the academics failed to face terrorism?

In 2011, a small research unit was formed by the name “the unit for the study of Istishraq” (https://m.facebook.com/Istishraq/) for studying orientalism. Orientalism, from terrorism perspective, is a fatal crime could result in the death of anyone approaches this field of study, for they think that those who study orientalism are also orientalists seeking to deliver Western values to an Islamic society! I was a member of this unit and we used to conduct our meetings in secret as we were aware of the risks we were exposing ourselves to by studying this delicate subject. We conducted our meetings only within the university and not open to the public! We did not only fear for our lives, but we also feared that we might get a rat among us who will rat about us and our activities. Therefore, we only limited our invitations to those academics that we trusted. We discussed thoroughly the concept of the “Academic” to understand and find answers about the academic’s role in all the chaos surrounding us, but with no success!

In mid 2012, and after the rise of terrorist groups and attacks in Mosul, I was involved in many dialogs with one of my professors about the concept of Freedom, its importance, and the fact that the main reason for all the chaos we are in is rooted in the failure of our understanding of the concept of Freedom that we learned; because the concept of Freedom that we received was stripped of its soul and value, tailored to fit authority only, and confines to “cultural limitations” to protect the “conservative society” from collapsing. I decided to study all historical and cultural texts written in Mosul during the last century and I found that all those products of thought were laying the foundation for this idea of deformed freedom stripped of its value. Hence, all the failed attempts to reform were frivolous.

The idea that came to my mind about deconstructing and reconstructing the concept of Freedom and the Academic pushed me to search for a way for me to teach at the university as a teacher, and I got that chance after I earned my masters degree. It was the golden chance for me to respond to the previous failures in academics. In my first class, I told my students “abandon all curricular books, they are ill written”!, Then decided “write history by yourselves!”. Since the beginning of 2013, students started to write the city’s history through their own accounts and became more familiar with history. I was trying, with my students, to redefine the concept of the “Academic” and its role in the daily life of the city, particularly the role and responsibilities lies on the historian in writing history. I was giving them the necessary training that qualifies them to become the future historians of Mosul outside the authority of the “conservative society”.

In less than a year, the catastrophe dawned on us. It also was a very difficult test for the value and essence of the “Academic” and the historian’s role. The Islamic state arrived to Mosul on June 6th, 2014. It invaded the city and declared its version of history that imposed on Mosul. At this confrontational moment, I feared that I will fail regardless of all the internal dialogs I had since the moment the previous regime collapsed and the scenes of looting the university in 2003. I knew that the ultimate price to confront this deformed version of history was death. I also knew that the only instrument to confront those who decide to carry weapons is to deweaponize the history they carry; that evens us, and all weapons the terrorist could carry will not stand a chance in front of the historian and the Academic power, and will discover that the version of history the terrorist is carrying will not stand a chance in front of the truth. Hence, Mosul Eye came to existence right at the moment the Islamic state invaded Mosul until today.

My goal of establishing Mosul Eye was not only to confront ISIS, but also to redefine the university and academia, and liberate them from the power of falsified truth and freedom. Also to re-enable the academic and rejuvenate its vital role in the daily life of his/her city, any city for that matter. And today, after the experience of three years of practicing history in the face of the Islamic state, our mission is still difficult to materialize liberty to the university of Mosul. After the defeat of ISIS in Mosul, the university fell under the authority of militias, but this time is different than 2003 and 2014; today, there are real academics who can practice their real duty in facing totalitarian authority and falsified versions of history.

The university of Mosul will continue to seek support and cooperation; I recently launched an initiative to invite academics from Western universities to visit the university of Mosul, reconnect with its academics, and create a network to exchange and support them in continuing their duties to establish a solid academic future capable of standing in the face of historical turning events such as ISIS’ moment.

A Call for Assistance with the Reconstruction of Mosul

The Mosulis finished reconstructing about %65 of Bab Al-Sarayi and Al-Attarin markets, and portions of the old city. At this point, they exhausted their resources and cannot complete their reconstruction efforts. The reconstruction supervisor in-charge told me that “we need the organizations to assist us with protection covering of the markets to protect the stores of direct sunlight and rain as it used to be prior the war”

You all may visit the construction sites at the markets and arrange a direct contact with supervisor in-charge there.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: