In Mosul, residents, heads of tribes and visitors have gathered on the 10th of Muharram to commemorate Ashura as a message of peace and unity among all of Iraq’s ethnic and religious factions.
The day of Ashura is marked by Muslims as a whole, but for Shia Muslims it is a major religious commemoration of the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein.
Mosul was occupied by ISIS militants for over 3 years and was considered the capital of its so-called “Islamic State” throughout the region. The oppression of the terrorist group has changed many aspects of civil life. The prohibition of Ashura was one facet of this, highlighting the ideological oppression which was held under the reign of ISIS.
Under ISIS’ control, destruction can best describe Mosul’s status. For instance, on the 22nd of February 2015, ISIS militants destroyed down Mosul’s library (the biggest library in Iraq), burning around 113,000 books, journals and academic projects, as well as a Quran that dated back to the 9th century. Moreover, casualties have reached thousands ranging from beheadings to the use of human shields. Additionally, mosques, churches and other holy places have been ruined under ISIS occupation marking a great cultural, human and heritage catastrophe in Iraq.
Now, with the help of the Iraqi Government and the civil society, life is returning to Mosul gradually. Bookstores, learning centres, restaurants and cafes are now open. Religious freedom, music and gossip are now shared among 2.5 million people ranging from Sunni and Shia Muslims, to Christians, to Kurds and Yazidis.