In areas liberated from ISIS, civil society is flourishing once again. From sports and art, to theatre and music, Iraqis both young and old are coming together to restitch the fabric of their society.
In Mosul, volunteers have come together to restore the city’s university after segments were burnt down by ISIS militants. This included former employees and students who came together to remove rubble and repair partially damaged areas of the university.
“We are a group of students from Mosul University and we are volunteers and we have come to serve this city, our beloved city,” said one of the volunteers. “We came to open the university, God willing and to rebuild the city. We are a charitable and humanitarian group”
During ISIS’ rule, militants only permitted a restricted number of courses to be taught, notably banning the arts and the social sciences. Now students have returned to their studies and are eager to catch up on missed time.
Activists in Mosul are also organising conferences and festivals to discuss the future of the city after ISIS. One attendee at the city’s peace festival criticised those who “defamed Mosul” and affirmed that Mosul is a city of “love, reading, music and peace”.
Meanwhile in northern Iraq, Yazidis who have returned to their homes after brutal and barbaric treatment under ISIS are begin to build anew. In Bashiqa, a group of Yazidis are rebuilding the Malik Miran Shrine, in an attempt to preserve their ancient heritage in Iraq.
Yet, these initiatives are not limited to the country’s northern towns and cities. Across Iraq, people are coming together to rebuild their lives and drive civil society forward.