Reading festival in Mosul sends message that Iraqis reject ISIS extremism


More than 10,000 books have been collected by festival organizers and distributed to primary and secondary schools in the city of Mosul. The reading festival seeks to show that Iraqis stand against ISIS' extremism and backwards ideology.

In the city of Mosul in Iraq, young people have organised a reading festival, which aims to send a message that Iraqis reject ISIS’ extremism and they are attempting to develop society. This is the second year that the organisers have been able to hold this reading festival.

“After the liberation of the city of Mosul, we met as young people, and we had to organise a cultural activity in the city of Mosul, so we staged the first festival two months after the liberation of the city,” said one of the young organisers.

Since the liberation of the city in July 2017, Mosul’s young people have been carrying out initiatives and projects to encourage people to read and educate themselves. According to the attendees, due to the security issues that the city has faced, many people have not been able to arm themselves with the knowledge to fend off extremist ideology when it tries to attack.

“Reading refines self-sufficiency, develops talents and mental abilities, and improves mankind,” said one of the attending youth.  “For me, reading is a turning point for the better, and it has made me invest my time in useful things and enabled me to adjust my personality.”

This sentiment was shared by many of the attendees, who expressed their happiness with the organisation of this festival because it has allowed to them educate themselves after the city was liberated.

During ISIS’ rule, the militant group punished and executed those who were caught reading ‘unapproved’ materials. Furthermore, ISIS destroyed many of the books and documents contained with Mosul’s libraries, including the central library of Mosul, which is said to have housed rare manuscripts and thousands of books. The destruction of the central library and the 3,000-year-old Royal Ashurbanipal library was considered a cultural catastrophe to the city.

However, since the city’s liberation, young people, in conjunction with civil society organisations, have begun rehabilitating these libraries and arranging for thousands of books to be brought from other parts of the country.

The launch of reading and library rehabilitation initiatives in the city of Mosul shows that the residents are attempting to restore the city’s cultural and literary heritage after it was destroyed by ISIS’ brutal rule.

“We believe that we must continue sustaining the momentum of these cultural events because it is important to fight terrorism and extremism,” said the young organiser.