Culture

Volunteers in Mosul bring literature to the streets

Iraq

Volunteers have brought books to the streets of Mosul to spread awareness about reading and cultural education after three years of deprivation under ISIS.

Over the last year the people of Mosul have been striving to revive their cultural scene. Three years of ISIS occupation forced people to abandon their cultural roots and heritage as a result of the group’s disdain for traditions and diversity. Residents say that the revival has been quick with festivals and events being held across the city to celebrate the heritage that was almost lost as a result of ISIS’ cultural cleansing campaigns.

During those three years, ISIS unleashed wanton destruction upon the heritage sites and areas of cultural and academic significance in Mosul. The group burned libraries, cinemas, theatres and bookstores and anything that symbolised the city’s rich culture.

The group also banned all cultural activities, like poetry recitations, music, dancing and singing. Individuals and groups were summarily executed for actions that ISIS deemed as punishable offences, such as exchanging film videos, music CDs, or for just listening to songs or watching television. The brutal executions and wholesale persecution of Mosul residents left the city in a state of total fear. Residents were too afraid to express themselves in any way, both through art and literature.

Books that were considered “blasphemous” or encouraged “heresy” were routinely burned in public ceremonies. The only forms of literature that were accepted were books that affirmed and promoted the ideology that the group sought to impose on the people of Mosul.

Now residents are reclaiming what was lost by holding regular festivals and events showcasing the rich history and cultural heritage that the city of Mosul has to offer. In the city, a group of students and volunteers have enriched the pavements of Mosul with books and pieces of artwork. Initiatives such as these have contributed to a vibrant and lively revival of the city’s culture. This revival has spurred many to take an interest in the cultural heritage that Mosul prides itself on.