Today, the world knows Mosul as the city that came under the brutal rule of ISIS in June 2014 and from scenes of destruction that followed a long, drawn out battle to liberate it from the group in 2017. But these media images belie Mosulis traditional character of resilience and perseverance. A city at the confluence of settlement, history and geography.
Mosul Eye Bureau instigates culture as a catalyst for the next chapter in Mosul’s life. It extends the work of the well known media platform Mosul Eye––which chronicled unspeakable realities in the city under ISIS, but which also countered the group’s false historical narrative by showing the city’s cosmopolitan identity and diversity of cultures and religions.
Mosul Eye Bureau presents artworks from the young generation that endeavored to create in the face of ISIS brutality, as well as those using art today as a way to kindle their own hopes and that of those around them. Mosul Eye Bureau also includes portraits of traditional handworks from the city, so many of which have now been lost in the fighting or to looting and theft. The Bureau facilitates this journey into a city seeking to revive and rebuild itself.
MEB Photo Essay: There is Always Hope
Photographer Ali Al-Baroodi (born 1982 in Mosul) is a documentary photographer and lecturer in English translation at the University of Mosul. He transitioned to narrative photography after ISIS occupied his city and intrepidly documented some of the militants’ destruction despite the great personal risk. After the liberation of his part of Mosul in early 2017, Ali transitioned to photographing scenes of life and hope while the international media was documenting war scenes. He was especially drawn to cultural events and was part of an open-air photography exhibit in Mosul organized by Mosul Eye in May 2017, presenting images of the destroyed Mosul University Library to the public. His work has been part of two international exhibitions, in Tokyo and Canberra.
Built by the British at the turn of the 20th Century, the oldest bridge in Mosul connects the two parts of the city. Mosul stands on the historic river Tigris, the Dijla as it’s known in Arabic. So much a part of the city’s identity is the river that locals refer to the two parts of Mosul as the “Left Bank” (east side) and the “Right Bank” (west side), descriptions which follow the flow direction of the Tigris. The bridge was repeatedly bombed by the Global Coalition during the battle to retake the city from ISIS and work is underway to rebuild it. Photo: November 2017. (above)
City residents at left walk along what was once Old Mosul’s busiest market street known as Saechkhana. The tower of the Roman Catholic Clock Church, officially named Our Lady of the Hour Church (Église Notre-Dame de l’Heure) was built in the 1870s by the Dominican Order and the clock tower was paid for by Empress Eugenie of France, wife of the last Emperor Napoleon III, as a gift to the fathers. The tower was somehow saved the destruction of the buildings around it, in a neighborhood named after the church, Al-Saa’ (the clock). Photo: November 2017 (above)
The Najafi Book Street in Old Mosul which once housed some 45 libraries, now either destroyed by ISIS or in Global Coalition bombing in the battle to retake the city from the militant group. The woman at bottom right was returning to her house in the area only to pickup some of her things. Photo: November 2017 (above)
A group of traditional Turkmen folk dancers performs at the University of Mosul in celebration of the city’s declared liberation from ISIS. Photo: December 2017 (above)
A lone student sits under an umbrella surrounded by overgrown grass on grounds of the University of Mosul in April 2017, in the then liberated eastern part of the city. Few students were on-campus during this period, as classes were still being held at substitute university locations in the Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Dohuk. The large building barely in view at left behind the tree is Mosul University library, destroyed in the battle to liberate the city from ISIS. Photo: April 2017 (above)
A student walks over the ruins of the Mosul University Library destroyed in fighting to liberate the city from ISIS. From April to June 2017, volunteers gathered what was left of the university library’s extensive collection that once housed more than 1 million books. Built in 1967, the Mosul University Library was the largest in northern Iraq and one of the largest in the Middle East and North Africa. Photo: June 2017 (above)
The Arabic instrument the oud stands on-stage amid preparations for a musical performance in the destroyed Mosul University Library. Such concerts—forbidden under ISIS’ draconian rule over the city—are now commonplace and often organized by young Mosul residents. Photo: June 2017 (above)
A sign points to the way of the now destroyed “Central Library” at Mosul University. Built in 1967, the library was the largest in northern Iraq and one of the largest in the Middle East and North Africa. The space once housed more than one million books—600,000 Arabic-language materials and 400,000 resources in English and other languages—for 150 university departments and 30,000 periodicals, in some cases dating back to 1700. A volunteer-led effort recovered some 34,000 of the library’s books not destroyed. Photo: June 2017 (above)
A concert is held adjacent to the destroyed Mosul University Library on the campus’ grounds, part of a Festival of Reading held September 6, 2017 and organized by youth activists to celebrate culture in the city. Photo: September 2017 (above)
A young woman walks amid the ruins of Mosul’s Old City. Photo: November 2017 (above)