A "Marathon of Peace" was held in the town of Bartella in an attempt to bring together people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
The town of Bartella is located in the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq, only a few kilometres east of the city of Mosul. The town was attacked and invaded by ISIS militants in early August of 2014. Most inhabitants of the city had escaped the town beforehand as they were warned of the ISIS advance into the town. After around years of occupation, ISIS was eventually cleared from Bartella in October 2016 by a coalition of forces including the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) and the Assyrian Nineveh Plain Protection Units.
Memories of the vicious ISIS attack on the town are still vivid in the minds of the residents of Bartella. The town is predominantly made up of Assyrian Christians, who ISIS saw as an obstacle to the creation of their so-called “Islamic State”. ISIS attempted to recruit and indoctrinate followers based on discriminatory and totalitarian notions of a pure and homogeneous state. Nevertheless, local social ties between various ethnic and religious groups in the province of Nineveh have proved stronger.
The Marathon of Peace was organised in the town of Bartella in order to demonstrate the people’s resistance to ISIS’ warped ideology and show the world that the communities of Nineveh Province, whether Assyrian, Shabak or otherwise, are standing together in the face of intolerance.
The destruction of Bartella by ISIS gangs has been documented. The terrorist group looted homes, pillaged churches and forced the exodus of thousands of people from the town. Most of those who initially fled have since returned to their homes and are rebuilding their lives.
Efforts have been made to bring communities in the province of Nineveh back together following years of repressive ISIS rule and sectarian violence. Nineveh is a diverse province, home to a variety of religious and ethnic groups. Local issues with regards to demographic shifts, political representation, and hate speech are being actively addressed through such initiatives.