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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Mosul will rise again as a symbol of hope and history

To keep faith with the past is to restore faith in Iraq's future

The base of the destroyed Al Hadba leaning minaret in the old city of Mosul. AFP
The base of the destroyed Al Hadba leaning minaret in the old city of Mosul. AFP

There will be some for whom the drive to repair the historic fabric of Mosul, torn apart in the struggle against ISIS, might appear premature at a time when bodies are still being recovered from beneath the rubble of this once vibrant city, more than a year after it was liberated. But nothing could be further from the truth. Iraq’s second city, once the capital of the Assyrian empire, stands at the very nexus of human ­endeavour.

Here on the banks of the Tigris rose the mighty city of Nineveh, one of the first expressions of modern civilisation. Every handful of the soil of Mosul is enriched with the legacy of 8,000 years of history.

In an interview with The National at a Unesco conference in Paris focused on the reconstruction of the city, Iraq’s culture minister Fariyaad Rawandizi made the convincing case that the international community should come to Iraq’s aid and shoulder some of the cost. Mosul, as he rightly says, is not only a living symbol for the very identity of Iraqis but also a unique touchstone of culture and civilisation for the entire world.

With 40,000 houses destroyed and 700,000 people displaced, there is much to be done. Encouragingly, international donors are stepping forward to follow the example of the UAE, which in April committed itself to the US$50.4 million (Dh185.1m) restoration of the 800-year-old Al Nuri Great Mosque and Al Hadba minaret, destroyed by ISIS extremists as they were driven from the city in June last year.

Teams masterminding the reconstruction work will meet in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. People cannot live in ancient ruins but the reconstruction of Iraq is a multifaceted challenge, in which the rebuilding of homes and historical and cultural sites must proceed side by side with the reintroduction of security and political stability. As plans are laid for reconstruction in Mosul, Iraq’s continuing parliamentary crisis demands a swift resolution. The nation has been through a terrible period of darkness from which many of its people are still emerging, blinking, into the light.

The people of Mosul, returning to their shattered lives and homes, have had their faith in all they once took for granted badly shaken. Rebuilding their city and the globally significant symbols of its past will help to redefine their place in the world.

By destroying ancient monuments, ISIS sought to erase entire cultural identities, bulldozing the past to clear the way for the foundations of its own warped ideology. To reverse that mindless vandalism is an act of defiance that will see hope rise from the rubble of Mosul, because to keep faith with the past is to restore faith in the future.

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