Iraq: in Mosul, the reconstruction project of the al-Nouri mosque is debated

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Four years ago, the jihadists blew up the al-Nouri mosque and its minaret, symbols of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Since then, Unesco has launched a reconstruction program for the building. Entrusted to Egyptian architects, the project is however controversial.

For centuries, this leaning minaret and the great al-Nouri Mosque were iconic landmarks in the city of Mosul, Iraq. But these two symbols were destroyed on June 21, 2017, by the jihadists, when the Iraqi forces were trying to regain control of the city. Only the green dome of the mosque and the base of the minaret had withstood the blasts.

Four years later, the time has come for the reconstruction of the building, under the aegis of Unesco. But before that, tons of rubble had to be cleared away.

“One of the biggest difficulties we encountered was removing all the rubble. We collected around 5,600 tonnes in the prayer room and the minaret,” Omar Taqa, deputy site coordinator, told France 24. the Unesco al-Nouri mosque. “IEDs were also found, some of them still active, but also bombs inside the walls.”

>> To review: “Iraq: disfigured by the war against the IS group, Mosul is trying to get up”

An international competition

The UN organization launched in November an international competition for the rehabilitation of the mosque. In April, she announced that an Egyptian team of eight architects had won the call for projects.

While the work, mainly funded by the United Arab Emirates, is officially due to begin in the fall of 2021, workers are now busy digging the base of the minaret to stabilize its foundations and try to find some artifacts.

The Iraqi authorities thus succeeded in recovering bricks and parts of the mosque. They will be used to rebuild the site, including the minaret, which will be rebuilt in an inclined manner for the sake of authenticity.

The project is not unanimous

If the minaret and the prayer hall should look like their original version, the spaces surrounding the mosque should radically change. According to the images of the project unveiled by Unesco, the gardens should be landscaped in a contemporary style. A choice that is far from unanimous.

“The people of Mosul want to see the minaret as in the past, and the mosque too”, explains Muqtad Jamil, architect, president of the Mosul Engineers Union. “It’s a mistake, it spoils the view.”

In the neighborhood, it is the dominant discourse. But more than a question of design, the Mosuliots especially point the finger at the slowness of the reconstruction of the old city, a large part of which is still in ruins.

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