The temperature was high but not unusual, around 45, and the winds were light, just a few kilometers an hour, but on these dry, hot breezes gently sweeping over Mosul on 21 July 2017 there was the scent of something that seemed long forgotten; it was Freedom.
On this day, three years ago, this iconic Iraqi city was liberated from the shackles of violent extremism, putting an end to 36 months of destruction, fear and death.
Early in the year that followed, UNESCO set forth on a path of reconstruction and reconciliation to bring this rich and diverse city, with its pluralistic history at the crossroads of cultures and religions of the Middle East, back to its former glory. At the Kuwait International Conference for the reconstruction of Iraq, in February 2018, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, announced the launch of the Organization’s flagship initiative, “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”.
A year later, UNESCO was granted access to what would become construction sites in the spring of 2019, and has since then made progress in securing and stabilizing key structures that are now in the reconstruction phase.
At first, the townspeople did not know what to make of all the commotion, but as the dust began to rise from the site of the nearly destroyed Al Nouri Mosque and its Al Hadba minaret in the fall of 2019, it became clear that UNESCO had mobilized the international community to not only embrace this city, but to show the world that a people inextricably linked to more than 2000 years of history can never be defeated.