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21 October, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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History will record who destroyed Mosul’s heritage sites

Omar Mohammed

There was just one thin wall dividing the room where I wrote the journal that became known to the world as Mosul Eye from the house where a senior ISIS fighter lived. There I sat, documenting the group’s brutality to the world, so close to the militants that I could hear them speak. As a scholar, it was my mission to deconstruct their historical narrative, despite the great danger of doing so. Writing history under such a totalitarian ideology was an act of resistance to the group’s destruction of Mosul’s multicultural identity and heritage.

I come from a city where Jews, Christians, Yazidis and Muslims of different sects once lived together in a unique and peaceful coexistence, in a city that dates back centuries. I was, and am, determined that it should remain and be restored to that status once again.

The revival of Mosul's heritage will reveal much about 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 contemporary culture will create safe spaces of communication between diverse groups of people. When you feel your identity is protected, you act in a responsible way before the entire community.

As I was writing this piece to explain the importance of Al Nuri Mosque to my city, news came through that the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Noura Al Kaabi, had just signed an agreement to rebuild two historic churches in Old Mosul. ISIS invaded Mosul in June 2014 and began to systematically destroy historical sites in an attempt to fundamentally change the history of the city forever. I tried to document this. On August 15, 2014, the day ISIS destroyed Mosul Museum, I was walking beside Al Tahira Church and told a friend over the phone how the ancient site, thought to date back to the 13th century, had been looted and abandoned. There was, strangely, one olive tree that had survived the rampage. I remember feeling this was a sign that the church would eventually be saved. I would go back to this church and light a candle there on behalf of the Christians who had been deported from the city. In ISIS-occupied Mosul, if this had been discovered, it would surely have led to my execution.

The writer is a native historian of Mosul and the founder of Mosul Eye

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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