Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO reaffirms its support to the Mosul Book Forum

24 January 2019

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The two founders of the Mosul Literary Café went to UNESCO headquarters with a view to discuss opportunities for future cooperation, within the framework of UNESCO’s initiative "Revive the Spirit of Mosul”.

Nicolas Kassianides, Director of the Cabinet of the Director-General of UNESCO, met with the founders of the Mosul Book Forum, M. Fahad S. Mansoor al-Gburi and M. Harith Yaseen Abdulqader, to discuss opportunities for future cooperation. H.E. Ambassador Mahmood Al-Mullakhalaf Permanent Delegate of Iraq to UNESCO, was also present at the meeting. Since its opening about a year ago, Mosul's literary café has established itself as an important intellectual hub of the city, a space of freedom where young Iraqis meet to discuss literature, arts, and music. And resume a cultural and social life banned under occupation. It is also one of the few places where women and men can meet to discuss freely.

"We admire your work, your courage, and your vision. UNESCO wants to help you. The reconstruction of Mosul is one of UNESCO’s main priorities, and the Initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” focuses precisely on the human dimension of reconstruction. UNESCO is committed to the rehabilitation of heritage, and to the revitalization of cultural and educational life. We believe these are the foundations of future peace,” Nicolas Kassianides stressed in his introduction.

"We are two young people from Mosul and we simply want Mosul to regain its position on the world cultural map. It is important that this initiative succeeds so that more young Mosulians have access to books and culture, to prevent the return of violent extremism," explained Fahad S. Mansoor al-Gburi. “We need to raise awareness and we need the support of the international community to deliver, translate and buy books, to revive the city's cultural and literary activities.”

"Rebuilding monuments and infrastructure is one thing, but we must think about rebuilding minds and mentalities,” added Harith Yaseen Abdulqader. Over the past year, the Mosul Literary Café has organized more than 200 events and meetings with writers, artists and musicians. The two men also organized a poetry competition, one of the first ever launched in the country. There are many projects, such as the creation of a children's festival, and a cinema and a cultural center. For all these projects, there is a significant need for funding and support.

 

Investing in the human dimension of reconstruction: education and culture.

"We will work together to define exactly what is needed and move forward in a concrete way. This project is very important to us, and is fully in line with our activities on site,” said the Director of Cabinet.

Launched in February 2018 by Director-General Audrey Azoulay, during the Kuwait International Conference for reconstruction of Iraq, the initiative ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul” is a UNESCO priority. This is the largest reconstruction campaign undertaken by UNESCO in recent years. With the support of the Government of Iraq and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, UNESCO will coordinate international efforts in three main areas: the restoration and rehabilitation of cultural heritage, the revitalization of cultural life and the reconstruction of the educational system. This programme is part of the Government of Iraq's Plan for Reconstruction and Development in Iraq and is linked to the Programme launched by the United Nations Secretary-General for the Recovery and Resilience in Iraq (PRR).

"We are convinced that Mosul will return stronger and more beautiful than before,” added Ambassador Al-Mullakhalaf.

The two founders of the Book Forum were accompanied by the teams of the NGO “La Guilde européenne du Raid,” and vice-chair Hugues Dewavrin, who supports numerous initiatives for the reconstruction of Iraq.

 

The Spirit of Mosul

Mosul is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is one of the largest cities in Iraq, rich in history, heritage, and culture. In Arabic, the name Mosul means "the one that connects,” this well describes the history of the city. For millennia, Mosul was a strategic crossing point on the Tigris River, connecting north to south, east to west. In antiquity, Jews met the Assyrians and Romans met the Persians in Nineveh, on the east bank of the river. Later, Christians met Muslims and Turks met Arabs in the old city in the west. During its long years of existence, Mosul has witnessed many conflicts, intellectual disputes, and military clashes interspersed with periods of lasting peace and harmony. Mosul has experienced long periods of independence, economic prosperity and intellectual hegemony, combined with a spirit of freedom.

Mosul's extraordinary history is inscribed in the very heart of the old city. Its museum documents the Assyrian and Arab antiquity of the region. Many of its 486 mosques, shrines and Muslim burial sites were built in the 12th century when Mosul was the glorious capital of the Zangid dynasty, renowned for its magnificent ironworks, miniature paintings and silk carpets. Its thirty-two churches and six monasteries attest to its vitality as a center of Christian worship and learning since at least the fourth century AD. The Bab Al-Saray spice market has been home to traders and goods from India and China for over a thousand years. The books sold in Al-Nujaifi Street embody the multiplicity of ideas that have crossed Mosul since time immemorial. The spirit of resilience and innovation, diversity and coexistence are at the very heart of Mosul's identity. Let us all unite with the people of Mosul to revive this spirit of community.