Reading is like breathing, it is an essential, vital function.
Hind Ahmad is from Iraq. More specifically, a 31-year old woman from Mosul, a city torn asunder by violent extremists, and yet a place where Hind could be, of all things, free. Free to escape into the narrative of a story, and in the story to find freedom from the oppressors. “During this very difficult period of my life, I spent most of my time reading. As I read more and more, I started changing the way I think.”
Hind studied electrical engineering, a field rarely chosen by women, and excelled in it. She worked hard to get her degree and harder still to start her career in her chosen field, but this would not be enough. Hind is driven by her beliefs and by a sense of responsibility towards her community.
While the Moslawi population was living in fear under the grip of violence and hate, Hind read books that focused on freedom of thought. She wondered how so few bent on hatred and violence could control so many? Forced from their schools, torn from their books, ripped from their cultural touchstones the answer was obvious, “Ignorance took over and it was easy to control our minds, because we stopped thinking,” observed Hind.
The more she read, the more she wanted to do more for her community, to amplify the voices of marginalized groups, to challenge what she learned from childhood. “I realized that we are at a turning point between the way we lived before and the way we will live after,” she said, describing the urge she felt to engage and take action for and with her fellow Moslawis right after the occupation. And she knew that whatever she did, it had to be done with books.
Through reading, we expand our horizon, reading gives us more options about the way we live our lives.
With a group of young people she thought about mobilizing youth to revive reading and culture in the city. “And thus, the reading festival was born,” said Hind.
Through books, Hind wanted to raise awareness and pull back the curtains on her world. “We cannot stay within the limits others draw for us. We each have to be able to take our own decisions and plan for our future,” she said reflecting on how books liberated her mind.
Today, Hind is an active member of the Moslawi community, working with an NGO to support women in post conflict situations. She has a radio show for people with handicaps and she is an active member of the reading festival in Mosul that brings thousands of people together around culture. Another example of the community’s efforts to Revive the Spirit of Mosul.
UNESCO launched a flagship initiative in February 2018 to Revive the Spirit of Mosul, as the Organization’s response for the recovery of one of Iraq’s iconic cities. Reviving Mosul is not only about reconstructing heritage sites, it is about empowering the population as agents of change involved in the process of rebuilding their city through culture and education.