Iraq: Liberation of Mosul, in the heart of ancient Assyria

The remains of the Tomb of Prophet Yunus, destroyed by Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2017/ inam alvi
The remains of the Tomb of Prophet Yunus, destroyed by Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2017/ inam alvi

The „old city“ of Mosul was taken over by the Islamic State group after 266 days of intense fighting.

At the end of a 9-month offensive, the „capital“ of the Islamic State in Iraq „fell“ at the beginning of July 2017, passing under the command of the Iraqi forces. The release of the entire city of Mosul was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, while scrolling on the screens images of terrible destruction. View from the sky, the second city of Iraq is nothing more than a heap of jagged blocks strewn with many corpses. Wrecked buildings, burning houses, collapsed buildings.

Since 2014, jihadist groups have become masters of Mosul, the second city in Iraq. Beyond the criminal exactions on the population, these terrorist militias have carried out a veritable „cultural cleansing“. Thus, in July 2014, on the lands adjacent to Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, the Islamists destroyed the tomb of Nabi Younis (a prophet known in the Bible under the name Of Jonah), claiming that this site of Muslim pilgrimage had become a place of apostasy.

The jewel of the Assyrian empire Nimroud was destroyed by bulldozer

Before demolishing the archaeological museum in Mosul in February 2015 with the aim of creating an atmosphere of sedation in the world thanks to the diffusion of images, especially those of the destruction of a colossal lamassu winged bull with human head . The violence foreshadowed a series of other large-scale destruction of adjacent heritage sites: Hatra (1st BC – 1. St s AD.), A Parthian city listed as Unesco World Heritage; Nimroud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian empire destroyed by bulldozing; Khorsabad, Dour-Shar-roukên , the „fortress of Sargon“, the capital of the Assyrian Empire (8th century BC).

More recently, in June 2017, the jihadists continued their iconoclastic destruction by blowing up the Al-Nuri mosque, the Mosul treasure with its emblematic 12th century minaret. The very place where Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed „caliph“ of the IS, made his only public appearance.

Mosul, Iraq
Mosul, Iraq

UN estimates only reconstruction of Mosul’s infrastructure to more than $ 1 billion

Similarly, the terrorist militias will have ceaselessly destroyed the rich historical Christian heritage of the city „to the forty prophets“. Like the monastery St Elie, built in the sixth century, the oldest Christian edifice in Iraq, destroyed in 2014; The Notre-Dame-de-l’Esure Church or Ste Marie de Mosul, set on fire in February 2015. In the old town, only the church of the Chaldean Christians St Thomas of Mosul would still have some standing walls.

During the liberation of the eastern part of the city in February 2017, the archaeologists who had returned to the site had made a surprising discovery: under the ruins of the tomb of Jonas (Nabi younis), they found the remains of an unknown Assyrian palace dated from the VIIth century before our era! It had occurred accidentally during tunnel digging carried out by the IS.

In March-April 2017, as part of a reconnaissance mission by Unesco, experts from the French company Iconem, specializing in the digital preservation of endangered heritage, were able to penetrate it: “ The IS had dug These galleries starting from the entrance of an ancient archaeological excavation …  explains Yves Ubelmann, the founder of the young start-up. In this maze, he was asked to perform, using scanners, 3D surveys impressive frescoes Babylonian bulls who have been brought to light „.

The United Nations has just assessed the reconstruction of Mosul’s infrastructure to more than a billion dollars.