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Collapse and Rebirth of Cultural Heritage

The Case of Syria and Iraq


Edited By Lorenzo Kamel

Cultural heritage and illicit trafficking in the Middle East are two key topics of our time.  The  book  sheds  light  on  both  aspects,  and  identifies  the  need  to  democratize  cultural heritage, by giving greater control to local communities. It also investigates the link between local hotbeds of conflict and violence in countries such as Syria and Iraq,  as  well  as  war  economics,  transnational  criminal  networks  and  the  politics  of  deliberate destruction and theft of cultural heritage. Finally, the chapters analyze the impact  of  non-violent  and  violent  non-state  actors,  fragile  states,  forced  migration,  environmental  degradation,  as  well  as  how  local  and  international  institutions  have  reacted to the dramatic events which the region and its inhabitants have experienced in recent years
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Chapter 4: Space, Time and People: How the Destruction of Mosul’s Heritage Is Reshaping Its People’s Future (Omar Mohammed)


Omar Mohammed

Chapter 4: Space, Time and People: How the Destruction of Mosul’s Heritage Is Reshaping Its People’s Future

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.

Borges (2004: 183)

How does an ethnographer [historian] write about violence [against the history of his own city]? How can he make sense of violent acts, for himself and for his readers, without compromising its sheer excess and its meaning-defying core? How can he remain a scholarly observer when the country of his birth is engulfed by terror?

These were the questions raised by Errol Valentine Daniel (1996) in his book Charred Lullabies. His words seemed meaningful to me while I was writing this chapter. It is almost impossible to make sense of the events that have occurred in Mosul in recent years, but I will nonetheless try to shed light on the history of violence against space and time.

For centuries, Mosul created and maintained a unique cultural identity. It has endured periods of bloodshed and extreme change in its structure, rule and architecture. Any other city may have given way to what might have been a completely new system and social fabric after...

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