Centuries of history annihilated in a few short months. It was from this spot in Mosul’s 12 century Al-Nuri Mosque that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate seven years ago.
Their reign of terror here and the fight to defeat them claimed thousands of lives and would leave the ancient city pounded into dust. Four years after the battle to retake the city, much of West Mosul remains in ruins, an unknown number of bodies beneath the rubble. Exactly how many people died in the assault here is still unclear.
Part of the city is starting to get back on its feet, with work focused on the Old City’s historic sites. The mosque complex is being rebuilt, as is the neighboring square that’s home to four ancient churches, a reminder that Mosul was once famed as a safe haven of religious diversity.
This square became famous when the pope came here to preach about renaissance amidst the ruins. But his visit also put a spotlight nearly four years after the battle for the city on how much work that there still is to be done.
These Moslawis, working with UNESCO, the U.N. agency that works to preserve culture, are doing everything they can to restore their home to its former glory and save as much history as possible, starting with nearly 3,000 original stones gathered from the ruins of Al-Tahera Church.
So, you’re collecting what you can of the stones from the damaged church and then planning to rebuild them in as you do the reconstruction?