Glimmer of hope in Mosul as ISIS-burnt library rises from ashes

Mosul University library
Mosul University library

Nearly two months after the liberation of Mosul, the city that fell to ISIS in 2014, has begun to rebuild itself socially, politically and culturally in an attempt to lick its wounds, resurrect again and turn devastation caused by the terrorist group into motivation. 
A glimpse of hope has motivated a group of young Iraqis who decided to hold the first reading festival under the title “Mosul Reads”. 
After a 40-day deadline for collecting books for the festival, different donors have provided 14,000 historical, literary and political books.


ISIS seized Mosul University's central library, containing over one million books with historic maps and old manuscripts some dated back centuries, and set it on fire. 
Even the only unaffected building in the library was shelled by US-led coalition aircraft during the battle to recapture the city. 
Currently, the exterior of the building is covered in black soot while its interior is filled with ashes of burnt books. 
However, on Wednesday, organizers of the festival invited “Awtar Nergal” (Nergal Strings) music band that played songs on peace at the building’s entrance while thousands were listening to the music that reminded them of the old historical Mosul, which used to be one of Iraq’s most important cultural hubs.  


Saleh Elias, the organizer of the festival, said that the festival aims at spreading peace and changing the stereotypical image of Mosul as a city of devastation and violence under ISIS rule.     
Many young people have taken part in collecting the books and holding the festival, Satar Mohsen, head of Dar al-Sotor, a famous publishing house in Baghdad, said.  
Mohsen also noted that the festival is a message that conveys to all that Mosul is a city that does not die and can rebuild its history once again.   
During the festival, Othman al-Mosuli folkloric dance troupe gave an incredible performance in which the attendees interacted.  


Mosul impresses us every day with life rapidly coming back to normal, Odai Ameed, one of the festival’s attendees, said. 
He noted that Mosul’s left bank is constantly receiving support. 
He added that if concerted efforts are made, the city will become a piece of art that has never been witnessed in 14 years.    
Youmna Obeid, a university student who was taking part in cleaning the central library, said that while she was in the library building, she used to cry out of sadness over what has befallen it.    
Now everything has changed; I became certain that everything will come back to normal or even better, she said euphorically. 


In February 2015, it was reported that Mosul’s central library was ransacked by ISIS and 100,000 books and manuscripts were burned.
At the time, director general of the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) Irina Bokova voiced alarm over “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.
She added: “This destruction marks a new phase in the cultural cleansing perpetrated in regions controlled by armed terrorists in Iraq. It adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people.
A few thousand books still survived and over the past few weeks since the liberation. Late in August this year, Iraqi security forces seized 336 books which were stolen by ISIS terrorist group from Mosul library.
Earlier, it was reported that civil activists from Mosul saved a huge number of rare books in a burnt building belonging to the central library of Mosul University.

Last Modified: 09 08 2017 06:25 PM

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