Since the defeat of ISIS in Iraq last December, parts of the country have witnessed a cultural resurgence, including in Mosul and its surrounding areas
Last month, a group of local volunteers set up the ‘Pavement of Culture’ in the town of Hamdaniya, which is located in northern Iraq and also known as Qaraqosh and Bakhdida. Established in conjunction with international agencies, the ‘Pavement of Culture’ drew in a variety of visitors from the surrounding area under the slogan “Together We’ll Read”.
The aim of the event was to spread awareness of reading, literature and improve literacy after ISIS’ harmful rule, as well as spread a message of peace among the diverse ethno-religious communities that inhabit the surrounding area. The group altered education for young people, prevented such cultural gatherings and sought to fracture communities across ethno-religious lines, while killing those that contravened their strict laws.
While the promotion of learning and peace are two of the major aims of the ‘Pavement of Culture,’ the young volunteers also want to provide an alternative depiction of their towns and cities, which have been stained by ISIS’ occupation of northern Iraq. Mosul, which is also located in northern Iraq and just a mere 30km northwest of Hamdaniya, was labelled as the capital of ISIS’ so-called caliphate.
“We are a group of young people and activists who have come from Mosul to participate in this festival and to show the world that ISIS is simply a fantasy, a delusion,” said one of the volunteers.
“Books hold great significance. It is through books that cultures develop and flourish,” said another volunteer. “It is a spiritual gift and one that consolidates the relations with our Christian brothers”.
Since the defeat of ISIS in Mosul in July 2017 and across Iraq in December 2017, life has gradually returned to parts of northern Iraq. In Mosul, cultural gatherings have proliferated and students have returned to their studies.
On Najaf Street in eastern Mosul, located near Mosul University, a festival was held last November to celebrate literature and showcase books of all topics. Also in Mosul, a new “Book Forum” cafe was established, in which men and women, young and old, sit passionately debating literature, music, politics and history.
All of these initiatives point to a resurgence in cultural events in Mosul, as well as a rediscovery of the city’s rich cultural heritage, mirroring that of the famous Mutannabi Street in Baghdad, which is well-known as a cultural haunt in the Iraqi capital.