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ALM Feature

Iraq's Mosul rises from Islamic State ashes to rebuild minarets, museum

As Mosul makes a slow revival from the remnants of war, a host of challenges remain, including corrupt officials and institutional weaknesses in Iraq.
Iraqi children gather at a playground in the old city of Mosul on June 30, 2023 during the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. (Photo by Zaid AL-OBEIDI / AFP) (Photo by ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images)

MOSUL, Iraq — Emad Zaki Mohammed, 55, a local Moslawi imam, would regularly go to chant the call to prayer at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraq, until the Islamic State (IS) blew up both the historic building and its distinctive "hunchback" leaning minaret in June 2017. It was the terrorist group’s last stand before declaring defeat during a protracted war against a US-led coalition of Iraqi forces. 

In 2014, when IS took over the city of Mosul, it was in the Great Mosque of al-Nuri that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed an Islamic caliphate. That fateful day, and during the battle, which began in October 2016, Mohammed lost both his beloved mosque and his son. The people of Mosul experienced one of the most violent urban conflicts since World War II. Nothing was left untouched by the horror of the war.

But now, nearly a decade later, Mohammed's voice can again be heard emanating from the mosque during the call to prayer, transcending the cacophony of sounds from the reconstruction not just of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri but other historic buildings, religious sites and museums in Mosul.

Mohammed began to return to the mosque two years ago to pray. “The city is returning to us now; the situation is better. All the people of Mosul want now is a better life,” he told Al-Monitor. Mohammed, like other Moslawis, fled the city during the battle. In recent years, as a consortium of international organizations rebuilds the city, his family and many others have returned.

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