The University of Mosul was burned down and used it as a weapons storage base by ISIS. Now, students and staff are bringing it back to life.
The University of Mosul, the second largest university in Iraq is considered one of the biggest educational and research centres in the country and the region as a whole. A degree from the university was a sign of great prestige, especially in the Arab world and within Iraq itself. More than 80,000 students have graduated since the foundation of the university in April 1967.
When ISIS captured the city of Mosul during their offensive in northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, the university was shut down and looted. The militants destroyed and damaged many of the colleges in the university. During their occupation of the campus, the militants ransacked many of the facilities or and stole the equipment available in order to make weapons.
Among the most tragic losses was the University’s library. Over 8,000 books and 100,000 manuscripts in its library were believed to have been destroyed in the group’s attempts to cleanse Mosul of ‘heretical’ influences. The library was also torched by the retreating militants as part of their scorched-earth tactics. Significant damage was also incurred due to heavy fighting between the militants and the Iraqi forces towards the end of 2016.
However, people across Iraq have come to Mosul to help revive the university and its iconic library due to its huge symbolic importance for Iraqis across the country. The University of Kufa in a widely reported act of goodwill donated 9000 books to the university’s library last year in an effort to show that Iraq is united.
Slowly, the University of Mosul is recovering from the three years of destruction and closure under ISIS. Students have begun to return to classes after a long hiatus and efforts to rebuild the damaged colleges and facilites are underway. Currently, there are 30,000 students studying in the university, just 10,000 short of its pre-ISIS peak.
Government officials and volunteers, many of whom are students and staff members, have been working tirelessly to revive the university. They have carried out work to clear the rubble and repair the buildings that were damaged by the group. Students are hopeful that the University of Mosul will return as the foremost institution for learning in the entire region once again.