Mosul shall not be the same even if Islamic State militants are driven out

By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, January 22, 2015

Mosul is the largest town under Islamic State’s control whether in Syria or Iraq. With its nearly two million people, Mosul is the most prized possession of the Islamic State, whose jihadists occupy large swathes of territory in both countries.

The citizens of this city, if liberated by Iraqi troops, Iranian forces in Iraq or the U.S.-led coalition, will raise questions about how their city looked like before the advent of the Islamic State and what has become of it and of their social life in the aftermath of its occupations.

If – and it might be a big if – the troops retake Mosul, its people, who were in love with its religious relics belonging to all faiths and sects, will remember the destruction of shrines and mosques some of them dedicated to prophets revered by the diverse religions including Islam, Judaism, Christianity and other numerous secretive communities.

Mosul has always represented the peaceful coexistence of the country’s social mosaic of cultures, religions, sects and ethnicities but the fear is that the Islamic State might have broken this mosaic to pieces that cannot be brought together.

I cannot imagine what kind of city Mosul has become when its inhabitants instead of paying homage to their saints and holy men and shrines are now subjected to lashes and public executions.

If the city is liberated, Mosul university professors and students will then realize how important their scientific institution, which was a beacon of science, literature and arts, has almost disappeared.

Archaeologists and lovers of the country’s ancient wonders may visit the Mosul Museum but there their hearts will beat with pain at the fate of the museum’s priceless treasures which have been plundered and smuggled for sale abroad.

It will be hard to bring back the city to its time prior to the onslaught of Islamic State militants. The harm inflicted on Mosul is beyond description.

But liberation – if it happens – will certainly lead to sighs of joy from the city’s women who have been forced to wear chadors as if they were living in Afghanistan.

There will be sighs of joy from the civil servants have been denied their wages and added to the army of jobless in the city.

It is possible for the tens of thousands of people who were forced to flee the city, among them Christians and other minorities, to return to their homes, but they will find them bare of furniture and some even without doors and windows.

In its more than 2000-year old history, Mosul had never seen such a tragedy.

But the city’s occupation by the Islamic State has taught Iraqis big lessons.

 In the absence of the Islamic State no one would have ever known about the army of “ghost soldiers” who were on the payroll but never present; no one would have ever dared to reveal the extent of corruption and the embezzlement of billions of dollars by those who were entrusted by voters to protect the homeland.