Students at Mosul University have started to return to their classes. The university, which was once one of the Middle East’s foremost learning institutes, was severely damaged in the fight against ISIS. Militants had previously used the campus as a base for operations before burning some of the university’s buildings to the ground as part of their scorched earth campaign.
Since the university’s liberation at the beginning of the year, de-mining teams, students, teachers and volunteers have attempted to bring Mosul University back to life by clearing debris, cleaning rooms, and working with local authorities to ensure security is provided on campus. Some students had even returned to their studies three months ago, while other more senior students have attended classes at an alternative site in Bartella, east of the city.
The return of students to the university’s main campus and the subsequent resumption of courses have highlighted the revival of the institution and a rejection of ISIS’ extremist ideology. Many students attending lessons now are also hopeful that the university will return to its former glory before ISIS.
“There is still some cleaning going on at the various schools and student housing,” said one student, “but we pray that it returns to what it used to be”.
The restoration of the university by local citizens is one of numerous civil society initiatives instigated since Mosul’s liberation in July, as residents attempt to re-stitch the city’s cultural and communal fabric back together.
Two months ago, activists in Baghdad, located 350km south of Mosul, came together to help restock the university’s library, which formerly contained some of the Middle East’s oldest books and manuscripts. The lead activist, Yasser, continues to gather and send books up to Mosul every Friday citing his “duty” to revive and maintain Iraq’s literary, cultural and intellectual heritage.
However, this group from Baghdad is not alone. Another group of 23 young people from Mosul have come together to restore the library. So far, they have recovered 34,000 books in an attempt to aid this cultural revival.