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Declared a crime under violent extremists’ control, today music thrives again in Mosul


Even the wind can sometimes whistle a tune, but joining in could have resulted in serious punishment when violent extremists took over the city of Mosul in Iraq in 2014. For three years, they spread fear and devastation forbidding cultural expressions and practices including singing, listening to music or playing an instrument.

The devastation they inflicted stopped many people from playing music, but even in the darkest hours, Khalid Al-Rawi, an oud player, would not be silenced.

“Music has always stayed with me,” said Khalid explaining how he used to play music hidden at home, with closed doors and windows and without the oud pick or reesha to soften the sound. “It’s part of my life,” he continued explaining how at times when he was feeling defiant, he would play music in the garden, risky, yet liberating in the midst of a city under siege.

The years of war that ravaged the ancient city made life unbearable for Moslawis, but it did not break their will to overcome the tragedy. Nearly three years after the liberation, Mosul still has a long road ahead to recovery and UNESCO is standing hand in hand with the Iraqi people and the international community to restore Mosul and bring back its textures and rhythms of life that distinguished it from other cities in Iraq.

Through its flagship initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”, UNESCO focuses on three main initiatives in this effort: the restoration and rehabilitation of cultural heritage, the revitalization of cultural life and the reconstruction of the education system. Restoring cultural practices and traditions, as well as providing the youth with the necessary tools to be active members in society, are crucial for social cohesion and building a peaceful future in Mosul.

Through UNESCO’s Revive the Spirit of Mosul initiative. Khalid believes more will be done to empower youth, musicians and intellectuals.