Despite the destruction and oppression that Christians faced in the city of Mosul under ISIS rule, many Christian citizens say they refuse to leave their ancestral home during times of hardship.
Sa’adallah Mikhael, a Christian man from Nineveh Province in northern Iraq, left his family behind in Erbil to return to his ancestral home in the Hawsh al-Khan district in Mosul, after the end of the liberation operations in July 2017. Despite the damage and destruction to the majority of the area, Sa’adallah says he can’t leave it because of his strong ties to the areas.
“This ancient area is my hometown. When it was liberated, I left my profession and came to Mosul to check up on my friends and my family,” said Sa’adallah. “Our ancestors have lived in this ancient area, and these homes of Christians are mortmain of the church.”
Since his return, Sa’adallah, who has been a photographer for over forty years, has been documenting the destruction that took place to the properties and areas that Mosul’s Christians lived in.
Despite ISIS’ attempts to spread discord and cause a social rift between the residents of Mosul, the man’s Muslim neighbours, who have kept him company while he has been separated from his family, called on Christians to return to their homes and areas, saying that the Christians have contributed significantly to the development of Mosul.
“We hope they return; people are peaceful. We live in one home, our food is their food, and there is no discrimination,” said a Muslim resident of Mosul.
After the liberation of Mosul, Muslim leaders from across Iraq called on the Christians who were displaced by ISIS to return to the city to live with their brothers of different faiths. Furthermore, many initiatives have been launched to promote national reconciliation amongst the diverse residents of the Nineveh Plains.
While many wish they can return, the lack of infrastructure and essential services have prevented them from doing so. As a result, activists have called continuously on the local and central governments to rebuild the city, which was heavily damaged by ISIS, and the liberation operations.
Until this is done, Sa’adallah will continue to wander the streets of Mosul, capturing the destruction that the city’s residents faced under ISIS.