The Mosul I have always loved, whose sky was our protective shield, has been replaced by an alien city of death, destruction and destitution.
But wait…you are not just dear to me; you are way more than that.
You are a love story that I did not choose; you are the people whom I hold close to my heart; you are my childhood memories; you are a place of peace and serenity that I so long for; you are my beloved Mosul.
I hear and read now about your destruction, your struggles and how you have become a killing ground, a city of fear. What I read and see leaves me in disbelief. But when I hear the trembling voices of my family and learn of how their lives have been turned into a never-ending nightmare, I realise the Mosul I have always loved has been replaced by another city, one that is alien to me.
I never knew a sense of peace, safety and strength as I did in your embrace, Mosul, so tell me what happened. Yes, we were living the Iran-Iraq war but somehow I knew your sky was our protective shield. Yes, we lived under authoritarian rule but the sense of being in our Mosul shell gave us a secure feeling. I keep wondering why life was not kind to you, my beloved.
I admit my love for you is a slightly complicated one. When I left you, I cried for days and months and wanted a miracle that would keep me under your beautiful clear sky, to smell your clean air and enjoy the only city I know with two springs. Although you were never a disabled-friendly city, you gave me more than your capability could provide. You managed to do what even parents fail to do with their children; embrace everyone regardless of religion and ethnicity. You may not have had medical advances but you taught me that one must improvise and life never stops just because of lack of equipment or facilities – I guess that is the core key of survival through years of sanctions, wars and instability.
So many self-proclaimed experts have offered their own answers and interpretations of events but as your beloved daughter I know the truth lies only within your ground and soil. You hold all the answers I am searching for and only you will I believe. It angers me to hear people who have never even seen you or know you fully accuses you of all sorts. I want to argue back and defend you but then I think what is the point, let them believe what they like, what do they know? Every Mouslawi knows that we are pacifists, that we don't get involved in political matters – that is why we did not experience the full brutality of Saddam's era but that is not to say that we did not suffer too. There is not a single home that did not lose someone or get affected by Ba'ath rule. Personally, I lost two maternal uncles, both in their 30s, yet people still claim Mosul did not suffer. But like I said, don't get upset my beloved, you are the envy of the entire world for your history, culture and wealth, so, of course, they will try to sully your image. Their ignorance makes them think they will succeed. They are clueless that your beauty will always prevail because it is pure like you.
Please don't be sad. It does not matter what others say, your real ‘children' will defend you not by engaging in arguments and debates but by excelling in our field and attributing all our success and good quality to you. We will show the world that we were brought up well by you. Yet we must also admit we wronged you. Whether intentionally or not, the fact remains that we, your children, failed you; did not realise your worth until it was too late. I spent nine years of my childhood with you, but I never visited all your historical sites or fully appreciated your importance. In my defence, I was merely a child who did not value what I had, similar to when I used to get irritated by my father's hugs and kisses and when he died I realised how foolish I was and how I would give anything to hug him again. I used to go past all your historical sites but saw them just as part of my city, I loved them without knowing their full value because they were simply part of you and that is the difference between us, your children, and others. Strangers look at your intrinsic value but we love every part of you unconditionally.
I may have left you but believe me I was so angry with my parents for taking me away from you. I used to cry and pray for months that I return to you, but eventually I realised far or away you are always with me, inside my heart and soul.
People reading my letter to you will think that I am glorifying you with a romanticised view but that is not true as I know full well and have experienced your negative aspects first hand. But I still love you because they are some that you regard and see as perfect in all their imperfection and this is what they call true love.
I will end my letter with a wish that we meet once again but my bigger wish is that you survive, that your wounds get healed and your scars fade away. I know you are strong and patient because that is where I gained these qualities and don't forget that the prophet Jonah, who lies under your soil, was stuck inside the whale but his patience paid off as he was eventually released.
You will return to us, and we will celebrate across the city like we used to during the spring season festival, we will listen to your old folklore songs ‘Ya Erdeli' and the smell of your delicious cuisine will spread everywhere; ‘pacha', ‘dolma', ‘Kibbet Mosul' and ‘A'aroug Al Mosul'. We will gather as we eat them all and share old folktales about you. I can't wait my beloved beauty.
Love you endlessly and eternally.
* The author's name is a pseudonym.