UAE rebuilding of Mosul mosque 'defeats extremism'
The UAE's involvement in the reconstruction of Al Nuri mosque and the Old City of Mosul is a strategic effort to reverse the damage done to the image of Islam by ISIS violence, Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said.
Speaking at Chatham House in central London to an audience that included prominent members of Mosul society, Ms Al Kaabi revealed that work had begun on the project just weeks after it was formally launched in April.
"This is an initiative that defeats extremism in all its facets," she said. "We don't want to allow the destruction of the past and the present. We won't allow this to happen, therefore we are very much committed to the Iraqi government and to our partners in Unesco, with whom we share the project of the rebuilding."
Louise Haxthausen, director of the Unesco office for Iraq, revealed that the authorities in the city had started work in the past month and had endorsed a plan to restore the historic building.
She said the plans to rebuild the Al Nuri mosque and the Al Hadba minaret were taking shape. Under the plans, the base of the minaret would be preserved as the centrepiece of a memorial to the victims of ISIS. The minaret, which famously stood at an angle to the Old City, would retain its slope and place in the Mosul skyline.
"The idea is to preserve what is left of Al Hadba minaret, basically the square prism, and turn it into a memorial," she said. "This is about telling the story of what happened to the people.
"Somewhere on the haram of the Nuri mosque, we will construct a replica of the minaret."
Ms Al Kaabi added that she had consulted with Maslawi (as people from Mosul are known) in the UAE and in the city itself over how best to honour its spirit and restore its leading role in Iraq.
"It's all about the Maslawis, it's all about the Iraqis, its all about those students who are going to be part of those jobs, both men and women," she said, pointing to the members of the audience who were involved.
The historical significance of the UAE involvement in Mosul reconstruction both underpins a long regional friendship and a wider global impact.
"The UAE has been consistent that its leadership and its people want a clear path to peace," she said. "What we can do to defeat extremism, hatred, violence, especially with having [ISIS] as a horrific group that tainted the image of Islam.
"To have such a site that is synonymous with Mosul and its skyline. How are we honouring Mosul if we are not getting in there and helping."
A needs assessment showed that more than half of the Old City and 50 religious heritage buildings, including Muslim, Christian and pan-religious structures. were destroyed. The Maidan area, the oldest part of the city on the banks of the Tigris, was almost completely flattened.
"There is a very high IED threat and the IEDs are in the rubble and [the threat] is all around," Ms Al Kaabi said.
She said the agency and the Iraqi government's plans for the Old City had taken the theme of "reviving the spirit" of Mosul, with an emphasis on educational initiatives and culture heritage rebuilding.
Ms Haxthausen said she hoped 100,000 people would be employed in the reconstruction effort and that many of those would be job market entrants who would earn diplomas and gain skills for life.
With more than 370,000 displaced residents and an estimated 54,000 homes destroyed, the scale of the damage to Iraq's second city is immense. Representatives of the University of Mosul made a special plea for help to restore the institution's library after 600,000 editions, including more than 7,000 rare books, were destroyed.