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Tigris, a bridge and Grand Mosque in Mosul
Tigris, a bridge and Grand Mosque in Mosul
Nīnwē ܢܝ݂ܢܘܹܐ
Mosul is located in Iraq
Location of Mosul within Iraq
Mosul is located in Asia
Mosul (Asia)
Coordinates: 36°20′N 43°08′E / 36.34°N 43.13°E / 36.34; 43.13
GovernorateNineveh Governorate
 • City180 km2 (70 sq mi)
Elevation223 m (732 ft)
 • City664,221
 • Urban
Unknown (estimates range between 750,000 and 1,500,000)[1]
 UNData 1987[3]
Time zoneUTC+3 (AST)
Area code(s)60
A map of Mosul and its quarters.
A map of Mosul and its quarters.
Grand mosque of Mosul
Grand mosque of Mosul
City of Mosul
City of Mosul
The Shrine of Imam Yahya Abu Al Qasim
The Shrine of Imam Yahya Abu Al Qasim
Nineveh - Mashki Gate
Nineveh - Mashki Gate

Mosul (Arabic: الموصلal-Mawṣil, Kurdish: مووسڵ‎, Syriac: ܡܘܨܠ‎, romanizedMāwṣil) is a major city in northern Iraq. Located approximately 400 km (250 mi) north of Baghdad, Mosul stands on the west bank of the Tigris, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank. The metropolitan area has grown to encompass substantial areas on both the "Left Bank" (east side) and the "Right Bank" (west side), as the two banks are described by the locals compared to the flow direction of Tigris.

At the start of the 21st century, Mosul and its surroundings had an ethnically and religiously diverse population; the majority of Mosul's population were Arabs, with Assyrians,[4][5][6] Armenians, Turkmens, Kurds, Yazidis, Shabakis, Mandaeans, Kawliya, Circassians in addition to other, smaller ethnic minorities. In religious terms, mainstream Sunni Islam was the largest religion, but with a significant number of followers of the Salafi movement and Christianity (the latter followed by the Assyrians and Armenians), as well as Shia Islam, Sufism, Yazidism, Shabakism, Yarsanism and Mandaeism.

Mosul's population grew rapidly around the turn of the millennium and by 2004, the city's population was estimated to be 1,846,500.[7] In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized control of the city.[8] The Iraqi government recaptured it in the Battle of Mosul three years later, during which the city sustained heavy damage.

Historically, important products of the area include Mosul marble and oil. The city of Mosul is home to the University of Mosul and its renowned Medical College, which together was one of the largest educational and research centers in Iraq and the Middle East.

Mosul, together with the nearby Nineveh plains, is one of the historic centers for the Assyrian people[9][10] and their churches; the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East, containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah, some of which were destroyed by ISIL in July 2014.[11]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The Fall of Mosul (2016) FULL DOCUMENTARY HD
  • ✪ Battle for Mosul - British Army: Behind the Frontlines (Season1 Episode 1) Forth News


- “In June of 2014, a force of fewer than a thousand lightly armed jihadi militants shocked the world by racing across the Iraqi desert, attacking a seemingly far superior garrison of Iraqi soldiers, and seizing control of the second largest city in Iraq. In the time since, the creation of this first world city of terror has been widely dismissed as inexplicable. But as the jihadis have used the city’s enormous wealth to pump violence and poisonous ideology around Iraq and the world, the true shape of the story has slowly come into focus. The terrible and mundane historical forces that led to Mosul’s fall are the same that have been directing its fortunes since the very beginning. In all likelihood, they’re the forces that will dictate its future as well.” - "The city of Mosul has existed for thousands of years. Straddling the Tigris at a crucial midpoint between the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea, it has fertile lands and a highly defensible countryside. But it’s the city’s power as a trading center that most shapes its early destiny. The ancient Babylonian and Assyrian empires keep a tight hold over the area from the beginnings of history, and in 650 BC the Assyrians choose a modern-day suburb of Mosul to host the empire's capital. The lucrative river gate is subject to a thousand years of invasions by Turkish, Persian, and even Mongol armies, but the 600s CE sees the rise of the Prophet Muhammad, and widespread Islamic conquest. After Muhammad’s death, a schism over inheritance of power produces two main sects of his new religion: Sunni, and Shia Islam. From the beginning, the Sunni religion dominates the Muslim population, and throughout history, the Persian Empires of Iran remain the sole major Shia power in the world.” - “Mosul lies near the interface between the Sunni Ottoman Empires, and the Shia Persian Empires, setting the stage for hundreds of years of strife. During the 11th and 12th centuries, Mosul serves a major staging area for the Muslim side of the Crusades. Combined with a brutal cull of Assyrian Christians in the 1400s, this shifts the area toward being predominantly Arab, and Muslim, with notable populations of stateless peoples like the Kurds and Jews. Eventually, the Ottoman Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent turns back the Iranian Empire, creating a new caliphate that encompasses all the major cities of Sunni Islam, including Jerusalem, Damascus, Mecca, Medina, Cairo, and Baghdad.” - “Around the same time, an ultra-conservative revivalist movement springs up in Arabia under a rural imam named Muhammed al-Wahab. His Wahabi doctrine preaches perfect adherence to the teachings and even the medieval lifestyle of the Prophet, in particular the incitements to conquest and violent conversion of infidels including less observant Sunni Muslims. The Ottomans battle these more extremist forces for hundreds of years throughout Arabia, remaining mostly dominant, and keeping their extremism from entering Mesopotamia. The Ottoman’s version of the Sunni religion comes to define most of the ethnicities of what will become Northern Iraq, while Persia’s Shia Islam remains dominant further to the South. Eventually, Mosul becomes the center of its own Ottoman province, giving it several hundred years of safety and prosperity, and allowing it to maintain a diverse population of Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Turkmen, and many small minorities. Several hundred years later, this ends, with the outbreak of the First World War.” - “The Ottomans manage to hold Mosul throughout the fighting, but by the end of the war, French and British troops have advanced all the way to Mesopotamia. The defeated Ottomans sign an armistice to end the Middle Eastern theatre of the war, splitting the once great Sunni empire according to European interests. According to these new Sykes-Picot borders, Mosul should go to a new French-controlled area that will go on to become Turkey — immediately after signing the agreement, however, the British simply march troops into Mosul anyway. With the Ottomans still recovering from a crushing defeat, no opposition is possible. Mosul, a Sunni majority city, now falls within the borders of a new Shia-majority state called Iraq, not Sunni majority Turkey. Expanding Iraq’s borders North also ensures that a geographically unified nation of Kurds will now be split between four new countries, with competing ambitions. Over the ensuing twenty years, however, this British gamble pays off, as Mosul’s enormous oil reservoirs become a source of increasing wealth, and power. To the south, most of the Arabian Peninsula is given over to the Ottomans’ old fundamentalist rivals, Wahhabi Sunnis following a line of theocratic kings: the House of Saud. Like Iraq, this new Saudi kingdom will turn out to have some of the largest oil reserves in the world, and the immense wealth allows them to bring the historically isolated and medieval Wahabi ideology to unprecedented global prominence.” - “In Iraq, colonial rule lasts until 1932, when political resistance forces the United Kingdom to leave. To avoid losing all influence over the country, the British fall back on their old tactic of supporting local powers sympathetic to British interests, and install their wartime allies, the Arab Sunni royal family, the Hashemites. This solidifies the British choice to side with Iraq’s Sunni minority over the Shia majority. In 1941, the Hashemites are overthrown in a nationalist coup, leading the English to fear they could lose access to crucial Iraqi oil reserves right in the middle of the Second World War. Breaking forces away from the European front, Britain re-occupies Iraq, and deposes the new government of Rashid Ali. Once order is restored, Britain again entrusts Iraq to the Hashemites, who are again overthrown in 1958.” - "Throughout the next decade the Arab socialist Baath Party rises to prominence, and with it an ambitious young shepherd’s son with a talent for violence named Saddam Hussein. By the time the Baath Party seizes power in 1968, Mosul is basking in the never-ending upswing of Middle Eastern oil. It founds the University of Mosul, which becomes a cultural center and great source of pride — but by the 1970s, the dual Arab-Kurdish city is less diverse than during most of its history. It thrives under Saddam’s sectarian Sunni government, providing a huge proportion of his upper level government and military personnel, but the large Kurdish population means that the city also remains a source of political and insurgent efforts by Kurdish separatists. The Tigris river delineates the ethnic divide, with Sunni Arabs on the West of the river, Kurds, Shia Arabs, and small minorities on the East. It’s a rich, fractured place, and a desirable prize for Turkey, Iran, and a long-awaited Iraqi Kurdistan.” - "Saddam is able to broker Iraq's oil reserves into extreme wealth and military dominance, but no matter how brutal his tactics become, he cannot permanently put an end to unrest among the Kurdish and Shia Arab populations. Iran arms and funds the Iraqi Kurds, helping them stage repeated uprisings in the face of unspeakable oppression. The situation shifts suddenly in 1979, when the Iranian Revolution brings the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who immediately tries to foster a populist Shia coup against Saddam’s Sunni Baath Party. Partly to end Iran's aggressive influence, and partly to take advantage of a weakened rival on the world stage, Saddam attacks in 1980.” - “The resulting Iran-Iraq war lasts eight years, killing millions with brutal, World War I-era tactics and heavy use of chemical weapons. In particular, Saddam uses chemical weapons against Northern Kurdish rebels who fight with Iran. Eventually, he tries to cow the Kurdish and Shia Arab populations within his own borders by turning his weapons of mass destruction on civilians, sparking international outrage but limited intervention. Mosul, with its large Kurdish population, is on the front lines both figuratively and literally, but its wealth is such that during this time it completes construction of the Saddam Dam — now the Mosul Dam, the fourth largest in the Middle East. When the Iran-Iraq war ends in 1988, both Iraqi and Iranian borders are unchanged; Mosul is standing but burned, tarnished by growing ethnic and sectarian hatreds. Saddam knows Mosul is one of the keys to the Kurdish resistance, and throughout the North his forces murder at least a hundred thousand Kurdish civilians.” - "In Iraq, simultaneously putting down large Kurdish and Shia resistance groups and fending off much of the Middle East requires such a large and expensive military that even Iraq’s enormous oil economy is eventually pushed to the breaking point; in 1990, Saddam masses much of his force along the border with Kuwait, the tiny southern micro-state that is home to almost as much oil as Iraq itself. Saddam invades, and America intervenes by brokering the construction of military bases in Saudi Arabia. These crusader outposts in the Holy Land fuel Islamist anger in the years to come. From these bases, the US initiates the Gulf War, dominating Saddam’s forces and pushing them all the way back to Baghdad. The US destroys more than two thirds of his military capacity, but Saddam takes his toll as well. When the Bush administration stops short of toppling the government, Saddam manages to consolidate power and avoid being overthrown. Frustrated, and lacking the political support to do it with American power, Bush calls on the Iraqi people to rise up and depose Saddam.” - “In the north, the Kurds do rise up — but though it does set up a no-fly zone to stop devastating air attacks on Kurdish civilians, the US provides no real assistance to the rebel cause, a grudge many Kurds hold to this day. Saddam’s crackdown kills a large fraction of the Kurds in Iraq, but continued uprisings and American air cover eventually force him to accept a de-facto autonomous Kurdish region in the north. When the Iraqi Army eventually withdraws from Kurdish territory, however, Mosul’s large garrison of loyalist soldiers hold their ground. The city is now one of the only major Kurdish populations not within the new semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, which envelops the city on three sides.” - “Saddam funds some politically-minded Islamic extremists from places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, and allows them to use the Iraqi desert to train for later insurgencies against these international rivals. At the same time, a new ideology emphasizing aggressive, global jihad emerges largely from the conservative Wahabi Sunnis of Saudi Arabia. Many of these largely fundamentalist Sunnis go to Afghanistan to join the Holy War against the Soviet occupation, and fight under the command of a wealthy and charismatic young Saudi, named Osama Bin Laden. With Western assistance, the Afghani resistance eventually forces the Soviet Union to withdraw, giving Bin Laden his first true glimpse of a way to successfully wage unfettered jihad in a world ruled by global super-powers. This is how Al Qaeda is born, helping to break a modern global power against an ancient and traditional nation. His new jihadis are natural enemies of Saddam’s oppressive, largely secular government; their adherence to the Wahabi doctrine means they view Saddam’s corrupt Sunni dictatorship as no less blasphemous than a Shia, Christian, or even Jewish state. In any case, throughout the 1990’s, Iraq’s most dangerous terrorists are all in Saddam’s military, and cabinet. These figures design and implement Iraq’s ‘Arabization’ program, driving many of the smaller minorities like Yazidis and Christians out of Mosul and into the countryside, causing the city to be defined even more strongly by its Arab-Kurd split in demographics.” - “Until the early 2000s, American and coalition aircraft continually patrol Iraqi airspace, and frequently bomb anti-air emplacements; though more than a decade passes between the two Gulf Wars, the American military never truly leaves Iraq. Bin Laden makes repeated attempts to goad America into the sort of large-scale military action that had been so grievously harmful to the Soviets — and eventually, this effort proves successful. As tensions rise after 9/11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan, Saddam lets some Afghan resistance fighters train inside Iraq. But within the US government, the effort is specifically to connect Saddam to Al Qaeda, and through them the 9/11 attacks. Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq becomes one of the pillars of the US argument for invasion, despite the known fact that this relatively low level member of Al Qaeda had only travelled to Iraq upon hearing of a looming US invasion. With international pressure building, Mosul’s university and the Al Kindi military base make it a source of scrutiny for the UN-mandated weapons inspectors. As he does at all such inspection sites, Saddam hides his lack of weapons of mass destruction by giving inspectors only partial access, or refusing them entirely. This gives the second Bush administration the final point it needs to convince America of the case for invasion — and this time, the US war machine invades Iraq for real.” - “The Second Gulf War offers no more lasting impediment to the American military than the first. In less than three weeks of direct fighting, American forces completely topple Saddam’s control over all areas of the country. Baghdad and the Shia south come under attack mostly from bases in Kuwait, while in the North, Turkish political resistance forces the US to deploy from Iraqi Kurdish territory. The CIA and US Special forces work with the Kurds and their Peshmerga fighters, leading many Arabs to view the US as a friend to the Kurds above all other Iraqis. US-led forces eventually move into Mosul, and Northern Iraq is quickly given over to the command of General David Petraeus and his 101st Airborne Division." - "Petraeus is an expert in counter-insurgency and nation building thanks to tours in countries like Bosnia and Haiti. He invests significant time and resources in reopening vital infrastructure, including the University of Mosul, and repairs battered villages surrounding the city. Petraeus tries to work through local hostility, rehabilitating the the economy while carrying out hundreds of targeted raids on known insurgents. More controversially, he employs former Iraqi military commanders and Baathist police officers to put an end to violence in the streets. The strategy is at least somewhat successful, leading many to praise Petraeus for getting results. But no general, alone, can offset the catastrophic effects of decisions being made in Baghdad." - “In May 2003, the US officially sets up the Coalition Provisional Authority to govern the country during the transition to a new democratic government, and appoints as its leader a former aide to Henry Kissinger named L. Paul Bremer III. Bremer has no combat or wartime experience, but he is a longtime believer in power politics. Accordingly, Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 1 is entitled 'The De-Baathification of Iraqi Society.' Named and modeled after the de-Nazification of Germany after the second world war, this involves the systematic purging of anyone with ties to Saddam's Baath party. It extends from the halls of government down to the universities, and even hospitals, and hits establishment Sunni cities hardest. Together with unrestrained looting of the ministries in Baghdad, this results in the crippling of the Iraqi government. Following the invasion, Mosul is without basic services for some time." - “But the enormity of CPA order number 1 is only a prelude to CPA Order Number 2: the dissolution of the Iraqi Army. In a single day, the CPA makes unemployed a quarter of a million men with fighting experience, no viable economic future, and a history of combat with Americans. It is widely cited as one of the biggest contributors to the development of a robust resistance within Iraq, swelling the ranks of the previously isolated hardcore of remaining Baath Party loyalists; shortly after Bremer disbands the army, attacks from Iraqi insurgents begin in earnest. Unemployment skyrockets further than ever, especially in Sunni areas where military recruiting had been heaviest. Mosul, one the hearts of Saddam's military complex, is hit hardest of all. Any attempt to rebuild an effective Iraqi military to combat insurgents will now have to start largely from scratch." - In July of 2003, Saddam’s notorious sons Uday and Qusay Hussein are found and killed in combat near Mosul, where they have been hiding among relatives and other Baath party loyalists. This deals a harsh blow to the Baathist insurgency — but has no effect on sectarian religious groups, or Kurdish fighters who view the chaos of invasion as a chance to carve out a truly independent Kurdish state. Hatreds are kept mostly in check, however, until just before the New Year, when US forces find Saddam hiding in a bunker near Tikrit. The war against Saddam is officially over, but Iraq seems no more governable than before." - "In 2004, Petraeus and the 101st are replaced in northern Iraq by a single brigade with no command experience in counter-insurgency. Their Stryker combat vehicles are intimidating and aloof as they roam the hostile city, engaging in sporadic firefights throughout the day and night before rolling directly back to a secluded forward operating base. In general, these US forces have virtually no peaceful interaction with local Sunnis, and begin to back their existing Kurdish allies almost exclusively. This creates further resentment in the Sunni majority city, even as the CPA struggles to get Baghdad and Shia Iraq back in working order. With the rule of law breaking down across the country, the coalition is desperate for willing and experienced police commanders. Washington backs a number of controversial appointees, including an ex-Republican Guard commander named Mehdi Gharawi. Gharawi was one of the only Shia soldiers who managed to work his way to a position of power within Saddam’s feared, Sunni-first military unit, and when he is given command of a division of the National Police, he goes about enforcing the will of the state in the only way he knows; during this time his forces are responsible for beatings, kidnappings, torture, and murder. He is also accused of using his unit as a front for brutal Shia militias in the area." - Mosul, along with the southern city of Fallujah, is a center for the insurgent forces, but Fallujah is seen as the bigger threat after high profile killings of private military contractors in November of 2004. The US deploys troops to Fallujah from Mosul — which then immediately comes under attack itself. Left with mostly Iraqi army and police forces to defend the city, "up to 3,200 of the city's 4,000 police officers either desert or join the insurgents during the attacks.” Dealing with uprisings in two cities, it takes the US and Iraqi forces days of fighting to reclaim control over most of Mosul, and the northern section remains a source of insurgency for several months, including a devastating suicide bombing of a coalition mess tent. During these months, Mosul’s infrastructure again collapses, and until order is restored it is left without police or government, lapsing into widespread humanitarian crisis. The incident becomes known as the Battle of Mosul, and it is the blueprint for even more important battles still to come." - "The military sophistication and incredible violence displayed by the extremists in their brief foray into Mosul becomes a hallmark of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and in particular its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Now armed with years of experience, Zarqawi has made common cause between his jihadis and the Baathists fighting under Saddam’s old second in command. With the help of Baathist generals leading experienced soldiers from the disbanded Iraqi Army, this new branch of Al Qaeda becomes resilient to US counter-insurgency measures. However strong, Zarqawi’s AQI breaks with the global Al Qaeda leadership by carrying out frequent acts of sectarian terrorism against Shia Muslims in addition to their anti-Western attacks. Bin Laden wants Zarqawi to attack coalition forces, however, and turn Iraq into a quagmire until Western troops withdraw. But Zarqawi’s bloodlust will not be restrained, and as the early years of the occupation wear on, once-peaceful cities are rocked by hundreds, and eventually thousands of car bombs in civilian neighborhoods. The proto-ISIS practice of releasing gory execution videos takes root at this point, terrifying and radicalizing population. Zarqawi’s insurgency particularly targets Shia holy sites, including the great mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest places in all of Shia Islam. This attack comes to define the most effective extremist recruiting strategy, setting off weeks of Shia reprisals that kill thousands of Sunnis, and drive thousands more into the hands of Al Qaeda.” - "In spite of widespread threats from jihadis and anti-coalition insurgents, Iraq hosts two contentious elections in 2005, each with extremely high participation. Though the Sunni minority still feels it has been excluded from real input, eventually power shifts to a shaky political coalition headed by a little-known Shia dissident named Nouri al-Maliki. Though the main goal of de-Baathification is to end sectarian discrimination in the government, Maliki has been a sectarian all his life. He spent the majority of his adult years in exile, hiding in the Shia states of Iran and Syria, and working to have Saddam overthrown. After the US deposed Saddam’s Sunni-led government, Maliki returned to Baghdad to be a part of Bremer’s new Shia-first alternative. As one of the few Shia choices palatable to the Americans and other international forces, Maliki comes to lead a Shia political coalition, and forms Iraq’s first true democratic government." - “The same month, the public learns of a secret government prison in Baghdad run by Gharawi, and sees evidence of the mental and physical abuse of over a thousand prisoners, most of them Sunnis. Despite frequent calls from President Bush himself, Maliki continues to privilege loyal sectarians, while excluding the country’s Sunni minority from most positions of power. Due to his time in Tehran, and his anti-Sunni behavior, Maliki comes to be seen as a pawn of Iran, which is also funding southern Shia militias throughout this period. The Shia nation wants to use Iraq as a buffer of casualties to prevent what it sees as a looming US invasion of Iran itself. But its serial meddling in Baghdad, coupled with the sectarian violence of their allied militias, ends up playing into Al Qaeda’s hands by creating resentment among northern Sunnis. This throws a wrench into both countries’ plans for the country.” - “Then, a great victory — Zarqawi is killed in US airstrike, likely targeted thanks to a tip from within Al Qaeda itself. But as Zarqawi’s chosen lieutenants now move up the chain of command and come to run AQI, they prove just as disloyal to Bin Laden’s strategic commands, and just as thirsty for the blood of non-Sunnis. AQI goes through several successive changes in identity, and leadership, but as the disciples of Zarqawi begin to remake the Iraqi jihad in their own image, Al Qaeda in Iraq starts to truly become what we now know as ISIS. One of the most prominent post-Zarqawi commanders goes by the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and over the next several years he comes to control the ever-shifting community of Iraqi extremists. True to Zarqawi’s legacy, the nascent Islamic State believes in undermining government and coalition rule primarily by sowing chaos and discord in the country as a whole. The ultimate goal of Baghdadi and those like him is to establish the final Islamic emirate, but the proximate goal is to start a nation-wide religious civil war.” - “By 2007, Mosul is ruled at the level of the neighborhood. Kurdish Peshmerga protect most of the eastern neighbourhoods, while Sunni insurgents including Al Qaeda both protect and exploit many in the West. Government and coalition control is patchy — but David Petraeus, working all the way back in Washington, has one final contribution to make to Mosul’s future: the US troop surge. The campaign generally begins in the the South of Iraq, so as the 20,000-man influx of US troops pushes the insurgency North, Mosul becomes one of many sites of intensifying violence. What had been a major center for rebel activity becomes the center, and the US begins to try its new strategy of living among the Iraqis to lessen the chaos in the streets, just as insurgent violence against US and Iraqi forces reaches an all-time high." - "During the height of the surge, losing hundreds of Americans every month, Petraeus makes a controversial move: he uses US military funds to pay certain of the Sunni insurgent groups to become local police forces allied against Al Qaeda, which has alienated even fellow Sunni Islamists with its wanton violence. The move is controversial to say the least, sparking a minor uprising among Petraeus’ upper ranks. After several attempts at English language branding, including Concerned Local Citizens and Very Worried Iraqis, the groups are eventually named the Sons of Iraq. Though the move is widely criticized on ethical and strategic grounds, after months of escalating combat with surge troops, the situation turns. Al Qaeda’s core strategy of attacking then disappearing into a population no longer works in many cases, and with few places left to hide most extremists are eventually killed, captured, or forced to retreat into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Over the next several years, violence decreases slowly but steadily across Iraq." - “Immediately after election, the Obama Administration sharply changes this American approach. The new President is deeply skeptical about the ability of military power to ever fix a situation like Iraq, and he becomes stuck between the responsibility Bush foisted on America to keep Iraq from devolving into total chaos, and his belief that America could easily become endlessly stuck in the quagmire of middle eastern politics. Obama is frustrated with seemingly endless calls to await a more effective Iraqi military to take over for US patrols, and wants to end the war as he had promised he would while campaigning. Despite warnings from top military commanders that troops had years of work still to do to create a sustainable peace, Obama announces a timeline for US troop withdrawal. He believes that America must extricate itself from Iraq, and that the process will only become more painful as time passes.The hope is that without American power to prop up a dysfunctional system, Iraq will be forced to become less sectarian in the government and military, or fail utterly — but to troops on the ground, the newly rebuilt Iraqi army seems almost comically unprepared for the task before them. With such a large and dedicated insurgent community, Mosul particularly exemplifies this problem. To Maliki, this is the main implications of the US timeline: he is now now sure to lose access to American power before the country is truly secured. Fearing the Islamists and other challengers, Maliki greatly steps up his use of force. There are violent clashes with Kurdish and Sunni protestors, and Maliki begins more aggressively purging non-loyalists from all levels of the government and military." - "In Baghdad, a court finally charges Gharawi for his command of the illegal government prison, but the Shia commander is too useful to Malaki to simply throw away. After several years of stalling, and over the strong objections of the US ambassador to Iraq, the government officially refuses to arrest him. A year later, as the last US troops prepare the leave, Maliki appoints Gharawi to command the national police force in Mosul. A Shia sectarian butcher is now in charge of protecting and pacifying the largest Sunni majority city in the country, the last truly intractable source of the insurgency, and the biggest Kurdish population not under Kurdish control." - "When the last US troops leave in December of 2011, Maliki signals the true return of tactics familiar to Iraqis, by issuing an arrest warrant for his Sunni vice president and rival, Tariq al-Hashimi. The Iraqi military's effectiveness is continually degraded by sectarian promotions and culls, and Gharawi's increasingly brittle Mosul defense force is faced with policing an increasingly hostile population. Large numbers of Sunnis begin turning up dead in the streets, dumped as examples to anyone thinking of supporting Al Qaeda." - "And just then, at the height of the uncertainty for Mosul’s future, the Syrian civil war boils over along Iraq’s North-Western border. The global leadership of Al Qaeda, including Baghdadi in Iraq, decides to dispatch a force to exploit the chaos. They call it the Nusra Front, and while US forces have battered Al Qaeda into a temporary defeat in Iraq, this new Syrian affiliate finds enormous success in the dispossessed Sunnis of eastern Syria. Much like the oppressed Shia majority of Saddam’s Iraq, Syria’s Sunni majority has long been excluded and oppressed by the sectarian government of Bashar al-Assad. They take the ancient Sunni city of Raqqa, home to almost a quarter of a million people, and quickly come to hold widespread, if deserted, territory well across the Iraqi border. In part because of their success, the Syrian extremists begin to fracture at this point. ISIS believes it is entitled to an ancient area encompassing Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, and Baghdadi’s troops fight intermittently with those loyal to the global al Qaeda leadership and nationalist Syrian jihadis, both of whom take offense at Baghdadi’s audacity in declaring the Nusra Front under ISIS control.” - "During this time, ISIS scores a number of crucial wins. As Assad comes down harder on largely secular rebel forces, those rebels increasingly seek help from the United States, or anyone else who can give a fighting chance to their totally outmatched force of former civilians. When America proves unwilling to intervene, with chemical weapons falling regularly on civilian neighbourhoods, they turn to the only group both willing and able to help. The hardcore of experience and weaponry in the Nusra Front. Perversely, this actually helps Assad’s image around the world, and in one incredibly successful move, the Syrian dictator deliberately strengthens this extremist element within the opposition to his government, by releasing large numbers of jihadis from Syria’s prisons — these seasoned fighters quickly join the local anti-government chapter, strengthening Assad’s claim that he is primarily fighting a coup by radical Islamists. This narrative invalidating the Syrian opposition is so successful, that when Assad drops deadly Sarin gas on a civilian neighborhood in the Ghouta countryside, the world hesitates as it actually considers the possibility that the rebels gassed themselves for the international sympathy. The US, along with the rest of the Western world, is paralyzed by conflicting priorities, while Assad and the jihadis do everything they can to accelerate Syria’s wild spiral into anarchy. Nusra’s appeal to the moderate rebels comes from their combat experience, organization, and above all their ability to make money. The Syrian resistance, meanwhile, provides the extremists a seemingly endless supply of recruits in return. Assad’s horrific crimes spur tens of thousands of idealistic young Muslims around the world to go to Syria to fight for their oppressed Sunni brothers, but when they arrive, they find the resistance dominated by extremists. Many are quickly radicalized, and end up fighting for ISIS all over the Middle East.” - “In Iraq, the new recruits allow ISIS to stage a daring attack on Abu Ghraib prison, mere kilometers from Baghdad itself, releasing over 500 inmates, most of them veterans of the insurgency. Among those released is Abdulrachman Bilawi, a Saddam loyalist who will go on to become the ISIS military chief for all of Iraq. Many of the others prisoners have harrowing tales of abuse at the hands of American soldiers and interrogators — much of the physical abuse is tame relative to what Iraq has seen in the past, but stories and images of religious and personal shaming drive many young Muslims into the ranks of the Islamic State. By the end of this rapid expansion, combined Nusra-ISIS territory comes dangerously close to Mosul, but the extremists are still too weak to consider attacking directly.” - "The ISIS advance is so alarming that Maliki heads to Washington to personally request more direct American military assistance. Short of some extra missiles and vehicles, however, the Obama administration refuses to reengage American power. When he returns to Iraq, Maliki yet again increases his use of force, arresting parliamentary rivals and provoking violent clashes with police. One particular clash in Hawija becomes a massacre, killing hundreds and finally destroying any hope of a united Iraq until Maliki. The result of this attempt to pacify the Sunni community is a widespread Sunni uprising, and just as Maliki's brutal and inept national forces struggle with a raging population, the Syrian-armed ISIS force attacks.” - “By the end of their months-long offensive, it's June of 2014, and the black flag of Al Qaeda now flies over a wide swathe of the Middle East. With major bases in Raqqa in Syria, and Fallujah in Iraq, ISIS starts to become a household name around the world. The fall of Fallujah is particularly biting to the Americans who fought so intensely for the city just a few years before. ISIS territory now stretches dangerously close to Mosul's outskirts and its lucrative oil fields." - "In the middle of this ISIS advance and the larger Sunni awakening, Gharawi’s Shia national police force only clamps down harder. Gharawi’s force in Mosul has opened fire on peaceful protesters, and his troops have been credibly accused of murdering five locals in cold blood, including a 15-year-old boy. Gharawi believes the extremists view Mosul as their emirate, their home turf. He fully expects an attack, and brutality with the Sunnis he sees as the allies of Al Qaeda is his only method of prevention. Rather than reprimand his lieutenant for fostering further chaos in the Sunni city, Maliki rewards Gharawi by making him operational commander for Mosul’s entire province of Ninawa." - "Over the first half of 2014, Kurdish intelligence comes to the Iraqi government with a tip: jihadis are massing near the Syrian border, and there are rumors of a coming large-scale attack on Mosul. Gharawi replicates this warning with his own intelligence, gathered from several ISIS sleeper agents captured in the city itself. They've been slowly cutting the city off from crucial supplies, including the destruction of several bridges, and intelligence suggests their move into the city’s underworld of organized crime is bringing them millions per month. The Syrian civil war has armed them with significant amounts of captured military hardware — willingness to come within striking distance of Mosul is made obvious by several attempted jailbreaks at nearby prisons. Gharawi’s requests for a larger city defense force fall on deaf ears; in Baghdad, the assumption is that the jihadis could never take Mosul, and if they did, they could be driven out quickly, just like last time. - "Immediately before they attack, ISIS sees the situation in much the same way. The plan is to set out for Mosul in a lightning fast convoy of pickup trucks, with suicide bombings softening the city for a quick, strategic attack. The goal is to take portions of the city long enough to liberate jihadis from the local prisons. What they can’t know is how profoundly Gharawi's security force has been diminished by cuts, corruption, and incompetence, and that their own fearsome reputation has taken a strong hold among the Iraqi security forces.” - “Many soldiers pay a third or half of their salary to their commander in exchange for staying home, allegedly accounting for as many as half of the budgeted defenders. There should be several thousand defenders from the Iraqi Army's third division alone, and close to 25,000 including police. By some reports, in reality this combined force numbers fewer than 10,000. And while Mosul is a storage site for a huge cache of American weapons left over after withdrawal, most of the defenders are poorly armed and outfitted. This is the force tasked with protecting a city of almost two million people, most of whom view them as violent, foreign-backed oppressors." - "On June 4, Gharawi's forces find and corner Bilawi just outside Mosul. He blows himself up to avoid capture, but searches of his home turn up documents that reveal the entire upper structure of ISIS. The hope is that the loss of such a figure and his intelligence will delay any plans for attack, but ISIS artillery begins shelling some northern areas the next day. Their efforts at prevention have failed, and on June 6, 2014, the attack begins. Suicide trucks hit the city's outer defenses, followed quickly by several hundred fighters in HumVees and pickups. They have small arms, RPGs, and large caliber mounted machine guns, making them better armed than the Iraqi military units they are facing. As they carry out their plan to take and hold a few important Eastern neighbourhoods, they begin to execute captured police and army personnel -- by hanging, or burning, or crucifixion. Some display the bodies on the hoods of their trucks, which are greeted warmly by many Sunni residents in these eastern areas. Planned by Bilawi and coordinated by his fellow ex-Baathist commanders from Saddam’s Army, the offensive is more successful than the extremists could have dreamed, and as the Iraqi forces begin to fall back, excited ISIS commanders realize they could take far more than the local prison. They call for reinforcements from the Syrian arm of the extremist force, pulling from a pool of Nusra fighters that did not exist two years before. As the sun sets on June 6, the city's fate is far from assured." - "The next day, seeing the potential for a complete ISIS takeover of Mosul, the Kurds come to Maliki to offer assistance. He refuses, twice, presumably fearing it could one-day be difficult to get rid of Peshmerga forces that have dug into the city militarily. Without these crucial reinforcements, Gharawi's forces are forced to fall back throughout the second day of the battle. The rate of their advance skyrockets on June 8, however, with the arrival of the Syrian reinforcements -- more than 100 additional vehicles carrying at least 400 fighters. At the same time, ISIS activates sleeper cells throughout the city. These local Sunni and Baathist loyalist groups attack security forces from among their assigned populations, just as a renewed ISIS force attacks the front with astonishing ferocity. In the face of this assault, and with no connection to their increasingly hostile charges, Gharawi's force collapses. Their commanders are largely incompetent patronage appointees who misuse the resources they do have, and huge numbers of troops turn and run without firing a shot." - "The extremists take Badoush prison, freeing hundreds more inmates to help secure the city. The people are rising up for ISIS, many of them from Petraeus' Sons of Iraq. Previously at war with Al Qaeda, the rebel groups have come to view the sectarian oppression of Maliki's Shia forces as the greater threat. The city Petraeus once held up as the model for managing the rest of Iraq has now become the world's most important center for terror.” - “On June 9th, the extremists end the battle. An enormous, truck-borne bomb finishes a dramatic last stand by Iraqi Security Forces at abandoned hotel -- the city's highest commanders are soon seen retreating across the Tigris and eventually leaving the city, and Gharawi himself makes a desperate escape under heavy fire. After this, every remaining member of the security forces either joins the jihadis or discards his uniform, burns his camp, and runs for the hills." - "Mosul is the biggest power center ever acquired by a terrorist group, and ISIS treats it accordingly. Over the next few days, fighters pour into the city and secure it beyond any hope of recapture by the Iraqi Army alone. More than a quarter of the city, at least 500,000 people, are forced to flee — and the Kurds in particular make heroic efforts to take in the displaced families. Even less these citizens, Mosul is by far the largest extremist victory the world has ever seen — in 2014, its population is significantly larger than all other ISIS-controlled cities combined.” - “In taking Mosul, the already surging ISIS force captures billions of dollars of cash, oil, and oil reserves to finance their wars, and the second-largest cache of US-made weapons and equipment in the country. Their loot includes tens of thousands of small arms, thousands of HumVees and armored vehicles, significant numbers of anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems, artillery including more than 50 howitzers, and even M1A1 tanks. Elated, the extremists push on, and armed with the most advanced weaponry in the region outside of Israel, they continue their rampage through Northern and even into Southern Iraq. The Iraqi Army garrison in nearby Kirkuk abandons the city before ISIS even arrives, but with the city now ripe for the taking, the Kurds seize the opportunity to annex a city they see as rightfully theirs. Peshmerga forces move into the city, securing it from both the extremists and the Iraqi government that ostensibly rules it. The Kurds look out over the desert at Mosul, and dream of one-day taking the last missing piece in their quickly forming state within Iraq." - "Taking Mosul puts the Islamic State in the center of the public eye, and in the weeks that follow, Baghdadi uses the city as the stage for his next great move. He holds an unprecedented sermon in broad daylight at the city's Great Mosque, announcing the formation of the final Islamic State, and pronouncing himself its caliph. From this well known pulpit, with his face in full view, Baghdadi declares war on the world. The powerful implication is that he is speaking from within the secured borders of a true Islamic State. He calls on all Muslims everywhere to join the cause -- and the drama of the moment launches this call to enormous prominence. Tens of thousands answer, allowing the group to push its agenda in Iraq and continue to destabilize Syria. And, now secure in well fortified cities, ISIS can dispatch some of its most effective commanders to lead sizable but disorganized insurgent communities in places like Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. Like Zarqawi before them, these IS commanders understand the power of chaos, and the outsized role they can play in any area with long-simmering local tensions. They also uphold Zarqawi’s legacy by continuing to refuse the larger Al Qaeda strategy of seeking alliances with local populations." - “The people of Mosul witness this inherent falseness to the Islamic State’s ideology more clearly than anyone. To clear Badoush prison, ISIS fighters release Sunnis inmates, both jihadis and other criminals, but hundreds of other Shia and minority inmates are slaughtered to clear their cells. Many jihadis operate as simple thugs, while others oppress fellow Sunnis for following a different or less stringent version of the religion, or simply because they can. Islamic State spiritual authorities recognize the necessity of appeasing their largely rabid base of fighters, and regularly produce new religious interpretations with the specific aim of legitimizing theft, murder, and particularly rape of whole populations of people. Incompetence and the skewed priorities of total war lead to a breakdown in basic services, while many jihadi soldiers focus solely on wanton destruction." - "Within a month of Baghdadi's speech, the Islamic State dynamites several major cultural and religious sites around the city, including ancient historical grounds and the tomb of the Biblical Jonah. When it announces a plan to destroy one of the city's most iconic structures, the great leaning minaret at the same mosque that had just hosted Baghdadi's famous sermon, dozens of citizens form a human wall to protect it. Over the next several months, Islamic State fighters destroy hundreds of priceless artifacts, and steal many others to sell on the black market. They also kill or drive out thousands of minorities, particularly Yezidis and Christians, remaking the population of their new Iraqi capital in their own image.” - “Their Wahabi sect of Sunni Islam was regressive even when it was founded several hundred years before — now, in 2014, ISIS begins to try to enforce the laws and social structures of seventh century Arabia on a diverse, modern city. From multiple mandatory daily prayers to edicts completely banning all forms of music, the attempt does not go smoothly. Public executions are daily occurrences — one day, they throw an accused homosexual from the roof of a tall building, the next they burn several Yezidi women alive for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters. Even Sunni Arab women experience incredible oppression, and have virtually no freedom in this new caliphate. Sex slaves from minorities deemed unworthy of human rights become an accepted part of the compensation provided to any ISIS fighter who desires one. Badoush prison becomes a living nightmare for hundreds of Yezidi women, who are kept and serially assualted until they convert to the Wahabi religion. Those who do are sold off as wives to ISIS fighters. In all, ISIS manages to turn the people of Mosul against them even more quickly than Maliki. A small but extremely dedicated multi-ethnic resistance force emerges within a matter of months, calling itself the Mosul Battalions." - "Facing such opposition, priority number one for the extremists is to find a way to sell their newfound riches in oil, and soon enough countries like Turkey, Russia, and even Assad’s Syrian government are accused of purchasing this cheap, bloody oil on the black market, even while opposing the group on other fronts. All that’s ever proved, however, is that someone is buying ISIS energy products. In August, the riches and weaponry captured in Mosul allow the Islamic State to take its apocalyptic agenda to all-new places, namely into Kurdish territory in both Iraq and Syria. It takes the enormous Mosul Dam, disrupting repairs on a structure in such poor condition that the US Army Corp of engineers once described it as the most dangerous dam in the world. If it breaks, estimates say over a million people could die from Mosul down to Baghdad, with millions more displaced. The extremists also take valuable oil fields, and begin to approach Erbil, a city of more than 1.5 million Kurds. They demolish huge swathes of the Iraqi-Syrian border in an attempt to undo the European Sykes-Picot Agreement that fractured of the Muslim world after the First World War." - "It's the threat to Erbil that prompts the Obama Administration to act to protect the city's sizable American population and enormous level of American investment. The US begins openly arming the Kurds, and carries out airstrikes on Islamic State targets, with a particular effort to destroy captured American armor. The spread into Kurdistan slows, but the momentum of the jihadis is far from broken." - "During this time, the Islamic State also takes the small Yezidi town of Sinjar, and perpetrates a massacre of thousands. More than 40,000 of the survivors are driven into the Sinjar Mountains, trapped without food or water. The plan is to starve them to death, but Iraqi and coalition aid keeps them alive while air-strikes slowly weaken the extremist force waiting below. It is the attempted Yezidi genocide as much as anything else that spurs larger international intervention. Shortly after the incident, Canada, the UK, France, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland, and Denmark all sign on to lend military support." - "Maliki is fiercely protecting his hold on power throughout this period -- he blames Gharawi for Mosul’s loss, and tries to bring him up on charges for abandoning his post during the attack. Before the trial can go forward, however, the US says that further military support will come only if Maliki steps aside. He finally does. Maliki’s replacement, a relative moderate named Abadi, must now go about the slow, painful process of undoing the corruption and sectarian discrimination in the government and military, and it has to do it while fending off the surging Islamic State. Empowered by the public outrage at a litany of grisly ISIS execution videos, and eventually terrorist attacks in the West, Obama and his coalition make this quest easier by opening up the bombing war. Training personnel embed with the Iraqi Army, but coalition troops avoid direct combat. As 2014 draws to a close, the allied nations begin to carry out the style of sustained, distant killing not seen in Iraq since the first Gulf War.” - “Over the course of 2015, the Islamic State’s sprawling territorial gains begin to fall apart. Combat with Iraqi forces and sustained coalition airstrikes bring their fighting force from almost 35,000 to under 20,000, while strategic operations against banks, oil supplies, and cash transfers cripple their ability to pay and equip their forces. Al Qaeda has at times disavowed and declared war on ISIS for its slaughter of fellow Muslims, and the Syrian nationalists in the Nusra Front continues to resist Baghdadi’s attempts to assert Islamic State control over the extremists in both countries.The Shia Ayatolla Sistani, the most powerful religious leader in Iraq, declares a fatwa against the Islamic State in the weeks after Mosul’s fall, greatly invigorating war-weary southern Iraqis. The brutality of both sides in the Syrian civil war provides the Nusra Front ample fuel for its hatred-based ideology, but in Iraq even most conservative Sunnis have given up trying to live alongside the jihadis. Their terrifying lightning war strategy has backfired — now, the fearsome reputation of the Islamic State drives the world to join forces and stamp them from existence.” - “The international crackdown also has self-interested motivations, as helping to fight the Islamic State has given forces loyal to Iran, Turkey, Kurdistan, and other nearby powers an excuse to surround the city. Iran, long the only major Shia power in the world, spends enormous amounts of money and influence to direct the political tides in the newly Shia-run Iraqi government. Iran is desperate to form a multi-national Shia front against their Sunni arch-rivals in Saudi Arabia. The Shia militias that support the Iraqi army are staffed mostly by idealistic young believers following the Ayatollah Sistani’s call, but a hefty portion of undercover Iranian agents taint these militias in the eyes of northern Sunnis. To allow coordination with the Mosul Battalions inside Mosul itself, and avoid a possible Iranian or Kurdish annexation, the US wants Iraq to raise a strong force of Iraqi Sunni fighters to take back the city. But every day they hold back and wait for that force to materialize is a day Mosul remains under the yoke of the Islamic State.” - “With ISIS thus largely contained, endless combat and airstrikes from coalition forces have forced the jihadis to increasingly abandon the core conceit of the Islamic State: a safe, independent nation for terrorists. Now, the group is by necessity reverting to many of the global guerilla tactics of Al Qaeda. Despite their attempt to turn back to the people for cover, ISIS’ total lack of Al Qaeda’s ability to form alliances has left its fighters in Mosul beset on all sides, just like Gharawi before them. Their response to this pressure has been predictable: a wave of bombings in Baghdad, multiple times daily murders of Shia civilians, designed to drum up sectarian hatred for Iraq’s Sunnis, and perpetuate the violence and chaos that feeds its apocalyptic ideology.” - “As Mosul slowly fell to the Islamic State, widespread reports indicate that on multiple occasions the Iraqi Army opened fire on the city’s Sunni civilian population. In the heat of battle, with a grisly death approaching from within their own charges, the soldiers had branded them all Al Qaeda. The result was a backlash that echoed decades of violence in Iraq, and hastened the fall of a major city to fewer than a thousand lightly armed marauders. This is the core strategic insight of ISIS, adapted from Bin Laden’s epiphany in creating the Al Qaeda model: groups that feed off of chaos seemingly incur no penalty for having created that chaos themselves. From the American invasion of Afghanistan to the worsening of the Syrian civil war, modern jihadis simultaneously require the use of military force and thrive off its least avoidable side-effects.” - “The new Iraqi government of Abadi claims to have learned this lesson, attacking ISIS without mercy while advocating a measured reintegration of Iraq’s Sunni population. In Baghdad, calls for full representation for Sunni arabs are punctuated by Sunni suicide bombs in Shia neighborhoods. Only the freshness of the ISIS trauma has kept Iraq’s majority population from responding with the familiar crackdowns, and kneejerk brutality toward blameless populations. But the extremist gambit is beginning to make progress with opportunistic or reactionary Shia clerics, and as the embattled ISIS force continues to funnel much-needed explosives away from the front and into distant peaceful neighbourhoods, the true power of their strategy is being put to the test.”



The name of the city is first mentioned by Xenophon in his expeditionary logs in Achaemenid Assyria of 401 BC, during the reign of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. There, he notes a small Assyrian town of "Mépsila" (Ancient Greek: Μέψιλα) on the Tigris somewhere about where modern Mosul is today (Anabasis, III.iv.10). It may be safer to identify Xenophon's Mépsila with the site of Iski Mosul, or "Old Mosul", about 30 km (19 mi) north of modern Mosul, where six centuries after Xenophon's report, the Sasanian Empire's center of Budh-Ardhashir was built. Be that as it may, the name Mepsila is doubtless the root for the modern name.

In its current Arabic form and spelling, the term Mosul, or rather "Mawsil", stands for the "linking point" – or loosely, the "Junction City," in Arabic. Mosul should not be confused with the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, which is located across the Tigris from the Old City of Mosul, on the eastern bank, at the famed archaeological mound of Kuyunjik (Turkoman for "sheep's hill"). This area is known today as the town of Nebi Yunus ("prophet Jonah") and is now populated largely by Kurds. It is the only fully Kurdish neighborhood in Mosul. The site contains the tomb of the Biblical Jonah, as he lived and died in the then capital of ancient Assyria. Today, this entire area has been absorbed into the Mosul metropolitan area. The indigenous Assyrians still refer to the entire city of Mosul as Nineveh (or rather, Ninweh).[12]

The ancient Nineveh was succeeded by Mepsila after the fall of Assyria between 612–599 BC at the hands of a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Scythians, Cimmerians and Sagartians. The Assyrians largely abandoned the city, building new smaller settlements such as Mepsila nearby.[13]

Mosul is also named al-Faiha ("the Paradise"), al-Khaḍrah ("the Green"), and al-Hadbah ("the Humped"). It is sometimes described as "The Pearl of the North"[14] and "the city of a million soldiers".[15]


Ancient era and early Middle Ages

Dair Mar Elia south of Mosul, Iraq's oldest monastery of the Assyrian Church of the East, dating from the 6th century. It was destroyed by ISIS in 2014.
Dair Mar Elia south of Mosul, Iraq's oldest monastery of the Assyrian Church of the East, dating from the 6th century. It was destroyed by ISIS in 2014.

The area in which Mosul lies was an integral part of Assyria from as early as the 25th century BC. After the Akkadian Empire (2335–2154 BC) which united all of the peoples of Mesopotamia under one rule, Mosul again became a continuous part of Assyria proper from circa 2050 BC through to the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire between 612–599 BC. Mosul remained within the geopolitical province of Assyria for a further thirteen centuries (as a part of Achaemenid Assyria, Seleucid Syria, Roman Assyria and Sasanian Asōristān) until the early Muslim conquests of the mid-7th century. After the Muslim conquests, the region saw a gradual influx of Muslim Arab, Kurdish and Turkic peoples, although the indigenous Assyrians continue to use the name Athura for the ecclesiastical province.

Nineveh was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity, and was settled as early as 6000 BC.[16] The city is mentioned in the Old Assyrian Empire (2025–1750), and during the reign of Shamshi-Adad I (1809–1776 BC) it is listed as a centre of worship of the goddess Ishtar, and it remained as such during the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1056 BC). During the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) Nineveh grew in size and importance, particularly from the reigns of Tukulti-Ninurta II and Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC) onward, however he chose the city of Kalhu (the Biblical Calah, modern Nimrud) as his capital in place of the ancient traditional capital of Aššur (Ashur), 30 km (19 mi) from present day Mosul.

Thereafter successive Assyrian emperor-monarchs such as Shalmaneser III, Adad-nirari III, Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V and Sargon II continued to expand the city. In approximately 700 BC, King Sennacherib made Nineveh the new capital of Assyria. Immense building work was undertaken, and Nineveh eclipsed Babylon, Kalhu and Aššur in both size and importance, making it the largest city in the world. A number of scholars believe the true location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were in fact at Nineveh.[17]

The mound of Kuyunjik in Mosul is the site of the palaces of King Sennacherib, and his successors Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal, (who established the Library of Ashurbanipal), Ashur-etil-ilani, Sin-shumu-lishir and Sin-shar-ishkun. The Assyrian Empire began to unravel from 626 BC onwards, being consumed by a decade of brutal internal civil wars, greatly weakening it. A war-ravaged Assyria was subsequently attacked in 616 BC by a vast coalition of its former subjects, most notably their Babylonian relations from southern Mesopotamia, together with the Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Cimmerians, and Sagartians. Nineveh fell after a siege and bitter house to house fighting in 612 BC during the reign of Sin-shar-ishkun who was killed defending his capital. His successor, Ashur-uballit II, fought his way out of Nineveh and formed a new Assyrian capital at Harran (now southeastern Turkey).

Mosul (then the Assyrian town of Mepsila founded by the former inhabitants out of the ruins of their former capital) later succeeded Nineveh as the Tigris bridgehead of the road that linked Assyria and Anatolia with the short lived Median Empire and succeeding Achaemenid Empire (546–332 BC) where it was a part of the geopolitical province of Athura (Assyria), where the region, and Assyria in general, saw a significant economic revival.

Mosul became part of the Seleucid Empire after Alexander’s conquests in 332 BC. While little is known of the city from the Hellenistic period, Mosul likely belonged to the Seleucid satrapy of Syria, the Greek term for Assyria, Syria originally meaning Assyria rather than the modern nation of Syria (see Etymology of Syria), which was conquered by the Parthian Empire circa 150 BC.

Mosul changed hands once again with the rise of the Sasanian Empire in 225 and became a part of the Sasanian province of Asōristān. Christianity was present among the indigenous Assyrian people in Mosul as early as the 1st century, although the ancient Mesopotamian religion remained strong until the 4th century. It became an episcopal seat of the Assyrian Church of the East in the 6th century.

In 637 (other sources say 641), during the period of the Caliph Umar, Mosul was annexed to the Rashidun Caliphate by Utba bin Farqad Al-Salami, during the early Arab Muslim invasions and conquests, after which Assyria was dissolved as a geopolitical entity.

9th century to 1535

A Persian miniature depicting the siege of Mosul in 1261–63 from: Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, Jami' al-tawarikh, Bibliothèque Nationale de cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.
A Persian miniature depicting the siege of Mosul in 1261–63 from: Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, Jami' al-tawarikh, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

In the late 9th century control over Mosul was seized by the Turkish dynasts Ishaq ibn Kundaj and his son Muhammad, but in 893 Mosul came once again under the direct control of the Abbasid Caliphate. In the early 10th century Mosul came under the control of the native Arab Hamdanid dynasty. From Mosul, the Hamdanids under Abdallah ibn Hamdan and his son Nasir al-Dawla expanded their control over Upper Mesopotamia for several decades, first as governors of the Abbassids and later as de facto independent rulers. A century later they were supplanted by the Uqaylid dynasty. Ibn Hawqal, who visited Mosul in 968, described it as a beautiful town inhabited mainly by Kurds.[18]

Mosul was conquered by the Seljuq Empire in the 11th century. After a period under semi-independent atabeg such as Mawdud, in 1127 it became the centre of power of the Zengid dynasty. Saladin besieged the city unsuccessfully in 1182 but finally gained control of it in 1186. In the 13th century it was captured by the Mongols led by Hulagu Khan, but was spared the usual destruction since its governor, Badr al-Din Luʾluʾ, helped the Khan in his following campaigns in Syria.

After the Mongol defeat in the Battle of Ain Jalut against the Mamluks, Badr al-Din's son sided with the latter; this led to the destruction of the city, which later regained some importance but never recovered its original splendor. Mosul was thenceforth ruled by the Mongol Ilkhanate and Jalairid Sultanate and escaped Timur's destructions.

During 1165 Benjamin of Tudela passed through Mosul; in his papers he wrote that he found a small Jewish community estimated as 7,000 people in Mosul, the community was led by Rabbi Zakkai, presumably connected to the Davidic line. In 1288–1289, the Exilarch was in Mosul and signed a supporting paper for Maimonides.[19][20] In the early 16th century, Mosul was under the Turkmen federation of the Ağ Qoyunlu, but in 1508 it was conquered by the Safavid dynasty of Iran.

Ottoman period

1690 view of Mosul ("Hella in Babylonie")
1690 view of Mosul ("Hella in Babylonie")

What started as irregular attacks in 1517 was finalized in 1538, when Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent added Mosul to his empire by capturing it from his archrivals — Safavid Persia.[21] Thenceforth Mosul was governed by a pasha. Mosul was celebrated for its line of walls, comprising seven gates with large towers, a renowned hospital (maristan) and a covered market (qaysariyya), and was also famous for its fabrics and flourishing trades.

Although Mesopotamia had been acquired by the Ottoman Empire in 1555 by the Peace of Amasya, until the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639 Ottoman control over Mesopotamia was not decisive.[22] After the Peace of Amasya, the Safavids recaptured most of Mesopotamia one more time during the reign of king Abbas I (r. 1588–1629). Amongst the newly appointed Safavid governors of Mesopotamia during those years was Qasem Sultan Afshar, who was appointed governor of Mosul in 1622.[23][24] Prior to 1638, the city of Mosul was considered to the Ottomans "still a mere fortress, important for its strategic position as an offensive platform for Ottoman campaigns into Iraq, as well as a defensive stronghold and (staging post) guarding the approaches to Anatolia and to the Syrian coast. Then, with the Ottoman reconquest of Baghdad (1638), the liwa’ of Mosul became an independent wilaya."[25]:202

Despite being a part of the Ottoman Empire, during the four centuries of Ottoman rule Mosul was considered "the most independent district" within the Middle East, following the Roman model of indirect rule through local notables.[26]:203–204 "Mosuli culture developed less along Ottoman–Turkish lines than along Iraqi–Arab lines; and Turkish, the official language of the State, was certainly not the dominant language in the province."[25]:203

In line with its status as a politically stable trade route between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf Mosul developed considerably during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Similar to the development of the Mamluk dynasty in Baghdad, during this time "the Jalili family was establishing itself as the undisputed master of Mosul", and "helping to connect Mosul with a pre-Ottoman, pre-Turcoman, pre-Mongol, Arab cultural heritage which was to put the town on its way to recapturing some of the prestige and prominence it had enjoyed under the golden reign of Badr ad-Din Lu’lu’."[25]:203

Along with the al-Umari and Tasin al-Mufti families, the Jalilis formed an "urban-based small and medium gentry and a new landed elite", which proceeded to displace the control of previous rural tribes.[27] Such families proceed to establish themselves through private enterprise, solidifying their influence and assets through rents on land and taxes on urban and rural manufacturing.

As well as elected officials, the social architecture of Mosul was highly influenced by the Dominican fathers who arrived in Mosul in 1750, sent by Pope Benedict XIV (Mosul had a large Christian population, predominantly indigenous Assyrians).[28] They were followed by the Dominican nuns in 1873. They established a number of schools, health clinics, a printing press and an orphanage. The nuns also established workshops to teach girls sewing and embroidery.[29] A congregation of Dominican sisters, founded in the 19th century, still had its motherhouse in Mosul by the early 21st century. Over 120 Assyrian Iraqi Sisters belonged to this congregation.[28]

In the nineteenth century the Ottoman government started to reclaim central control over its outlying provinces. Their aim was to "restore Ottoman law, and rejuvenate the military" as well as reviving "a secure tax base for the government".[30]:24–26 In order to reestablish rule in 1834 the Sultan abolished public elections for the position of governor, and began "neutraliz[ing] local families such as the Jalilis and their class."[30]:28–29 and appointing new, non-Maslawi governors directly. In line with its reintegration within central government rule, Mosul was required to conform to new Ottoman reform legislation, including the standardization of tariff rates, the consolidation of internal taxes and the integration of the administrative apparatus with the central government.[30]:26

This process started in 1834 with the appointment of Bayraktar Mehmet Pasha, who was to rule Mosul for the next four years. After the reign of Bayraktar Mehmet Pasha, the Ottoman government (wishing still to restrain the influence of powerful local families) appointed a series of governors in rapid succession, ruling "for only a brief period before being sent somewhere else to govern, making it impossible for any of them to achieve a substantial local power base."[30]:29 Mosul's importance as a trading center declined after the opening of the Suez Canal, which enabled goods to travel to and from India by sea rather than by land across Iraq and through Mosul.

A coffee house in Mosul, 1914.
A coffee house in Mosul, 1914.

Mosul was the capital of Mosul Vilayet one of the three vilayets (provinces) of Ottoman Iraq, with a brief break in 1623 when Persia seized the city.

During World War I the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria against the British Empire, France and the Russian Empire. In northern Mesopotamia, northern Syria and south east Turkey the Ottomans held the armed support of the Kurds, Turcomans, Circassians and some Arab groups, while the British and Russians were militarily supported by the Assyrians and Armenians (particularly in the wake of the Armenian genocide and Assyrian genocide), and some Arab groups. The Ottomans were defeated, and in 1918 the British occupied Mosul, and indeed the whole of Iraq.

1918 to 1990s

At the end of World War I in October 1918, after the signature of the Armistice of Mudros, British forces occupied Mosul. After the war, the city and the surrounding area became part of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (1918–1920) and shortly Mandatory Iraq (1920–1932). This mandate was contested by Turkey which continued to claim the area based on the fact that it was under Ottoman control during the signature of the Armistice.

In the Treaty of Lausanne, the dispute over Mosul was left for future resolution by the League of Nations. Iraq's possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations brokered agreement between Turkey and Great Britain in 1926. Former Ottoman Mosul Vilayet eventually became Nineveh Governorate of Iraq, but Mosul remained the provincial capital.

Mosul in 1932. The leaning minaret of Great Mosque of al-Nuri gave the city its nickname "the hunchback" (الحدباء al-Ḥadbāˈ)
Mosul in 1932. The leaning minaret of Great Mosque of al-Nuri gave the city its nickname "the hunchback" (الحدباء al-Ḥadbāˈ)

Mosul's fortunes revived with the discovery of oil in the area, from the late 1920s onward. It became a nexus for the movement of oil via truck and pipeline to both Turkey and Syria. Qyuarrah Refinery was built within about an hour's drive from the city and was used to process tar for road-building projects. It was damaged but not destroyed during the Iran–Iraq War.

The opening of the University of Mosul in 1967 enabled the education of many in the city and surrounding areas.

Mosul, 1968
Mosul, 1968
Mosul 1968
Mosul 1968

After the 1991 uprisings by the Kurds Mosul did not fall within the Kurdish-ruled area, but it was included in the northern no-fly zone imposed and patrolled by the United States and Britain between 1991 and 2003.

Although this prevented Saddam's forces from mounting large-scale military operations again in the region, it did not stop the regime from implementing a steady policy of "Arabisation" by which the demography of some areas of Nineveh Governorate were gradually changed. Despite the program Mosul and its surrounding towns and villages remained home to a mixture of Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Shabaks, a few Jews, and isolated populations of Yazidis, Mandeans, Kawliya and Circassians.

Saddam was able to garrison portions of the 5th Army within the city of Mosul, had Mosul International Airport under military control, and recruited heavily from the city for his military's officer corps. This may have been due to the fact that most of the officers and generals of the Iraqi Army were from Mosul long before the Saddam regime era.

2003 American invasion

Saddam Hussein's sons Qusay and Uday were killed in a gun battle in Mosul on July 22, 2003.
Saddam Hussein's sons Qusay and Uday were killed in a gun battle in Mosul on July 22, 2003.

When the 2003 invasion of Iraq was being planned, the United States had originally intended to base troops in Turkey and mount a thrust into northern Iraq to capture Mosul. However, the Turkish parliament refused to grant permission for the operation. When the Iraq War did break out in March 2003, US military activity in the area was confined to strategic bombing with airdropped special forces operating in the vicinity. Mosul fell on April 11, 2003, when the Iraqi Army 5th Corps, loyal to Saddam, abandoned the city and eventually surrendered, two days after the fall of Baghdad. US Army Special Forces with Kurdish fighters quickly took civil control of the city. Thereafter began widespread looting before an agreement was reached to cede overall control to US forces.

On July 22, 2003, Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein, were killed in a gun battle with Coalition forces in Mosul after a failed attempt at their apprehension.[31] Mosul also served as the operational base for the US Army's 101st Airborne Division during the occupational phase of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. During its tenure, the 101st Airborne Division was able to extensively survey the city and, advised by the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, non-governmental organizations, and the people of Mosul, began reconstruction work by employing the people of Mosul in the areas of security, electricity, local governance, drinking water, wastewater, trash disposal, roads, bridges, and environmental concerns.[32]

Other US Army units to have occupied the city include the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 172nd Stryker Brigade, the 3rd Brigade-2nd Infantry Division, 18th Engineer Brigade (Combat), Alpha Company 14th Engineer Battalion-555th Combat Engineer Brigade, 1st Brigade-25th Infantry Division, the 511th Military Police Company, the 812th Military Police Company and company-size units from Reserve components, an element of the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade, and the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion which covered the areas north of the Green Line.[clarification needed]

On June 24, 2004, a coordinated series of car-bombs killed 62 people, many of them policemen.

The memorial that stands outside the entrance to the Dining Hall on FOB Marez where the December 21, 2004 suicide attack occurred.
The memorial that stands outside the entrance to the Dining Hall on FOB Marez where the December 21, 2004 suicide attack occurred.

On December 21, 2004, fourteen US soldiers, four American employees of Halliburton, and four Iraqi soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on a dining hall at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Marez next to the main US military airfield at Mosul. The Pentagon reported that 72 other personnel were injured in the attack carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest and the uniform of the Iraqi security services. The Islamist group Army of Ansar al-Sunna (partly evolved from Ansar al-Islam) declared responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement.

In December 2007, Iraq reopened Mosul International Airport. An Iraqi Airways flight carried 152 Hajj pilgrims to Baghdad, the first commercial flight since US forces declared a no-fly zone in 1993, although further commercial flight remained prohibited.[33] On January 23, 2008, an explosion in an apartment building killed 36 people. The following day, a suicide bomber dressed as a police officer assassinated the local police chief, Brig. Gen. Salah Mohammed al-Jubouri, the director of police for Ninevah province, as he toured the site of the blast.[34]

In May 2008, a military offensive of the Ninawa campaign was launched by US-backed Iraqi Army Forces led by Maj. Gen. Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the commander of military operations in Mosul, in the hope of bringing back stability and security to the city.[35] Though the representatives of Mosul in the Iraqi Parliament, the intellectuals of the city, and other concerned humanitarian groups agreed on the pressing need for a solution to the unbearable conditions of the city, they still believed that the solution was merely political and administrative. They also questioned whether such a large-scale military offensive would spare the lives of innocent people.[36]

All these factors deprived the city of its historical, scientific, and intellectual foundations in the last 4 years[clarification needed], when many scientists, professors, academics, doctors, health professionals, engineers, lawyers, journalists, religious clergy (both Muslims and Christians), historians, as well as professionals and artists in all walks of life, were either killed or forced to leave the city under the threat of being shot, exactly as happened elsewhere in Iraq in the years following 2003.[37][38][39][40]

Christian exodus

In 2008, many Assyrian Christians (about 12,000) fled the city, following a wave of murders and threats against their community. The murder of a dozen Assyrians, threats that others would be murdered unless they converted to Islam, and the destruction of their houses sparked a rapid exodus of the Christian population. Some families crossed the borders to Syria and Turkey while others were given shelter in churches and monasteries. Accusations were exchanged between Sunni fundamentalists and some Kurdish groups for being behind this new exodus. For the time being, the motivation of these acts is unclear, but some claims linked it to the imminent provincial elections which took place in January 2009, and the related Assyrian Christians' demands for broader representation in the provincial councils.[41][42]

Mosul was attacked on June 4, 2014. After six days of fighting, on June 10, 2014, the Islamic State took over the city during the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive.[43][44][45] By August 2014, the city's new ISIL administration was initially dysfunctional. with frequent power cuts, tainted water supply, collapse of infrastructure support, and failing health care.[46]

Government by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

Humvee down after an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Humvee down after an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control of Mosul, after the Iraqi troops stationed there fled.[47][48] Troop shortages and infighting among top officers and Iraqi political leaders played into Islamic State's hands and fueled panic that led to the city's abandonment.[49] Kurdish intelligence had been warned by a reliable source in early 2014 that Mosul would be attacked by ISIL, and ex-Baathists had informed the US and the UK;[50] however, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Defence Minister turned down repeated offers of help from the Peshmerga. Half a million people escaped on foot or by car during the next 2 days.[51]

ISIL acquired three divisions' worth of up-to-date American arms and munitions—including M1129 Stryker 120-mm mortars and at least 700 armoured Humvee vehicles from the then fleeing, or since massacred, Iraqi Army.[52] Many residents initially welcomed ISIL,[53] and according to a member of the UK's Defence Select Committee, Mosul "fell because the people living there were fed up with the sectarianism of the Shia dominated Iraqi government."[52]

Iraqi soldiers drive past an ISIL sign in eastern Mosul, January 2017.
Iraqi soldiers drive past an ISIL sign in eastern Mosul, January 2017.

On 21 January 2015, the US began coordinating airstrikes with a Kurdish-launched offensive, to help them begin the planned operation to retake the city of Mosul.[54]

Once home to at least 70,000 Assyrian Christians, there were possibly none left in Mosul following ISIL's takeover; any that did remain were forced to pay a tax for remaining Christian, and lived under the constant threat of violence.[55][56] The indigenous Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamian ancestry, who have a history in the region dating back over 5,000 years, suffered their Christian churches and monasteries being vandalized and burned down,[57] their ancient Assyrian heritage sites dating back to the Iron Age destroyed, and their homes and possessions seized by ISIL.[58] They also faced ultimatums to either convert to Islam, leave their ancient homelands, or be murdered.[58][59]

During the ISIL government of Mosul, several phone lines were cut by ISIL, and many cell phone towers and internet access points were destroyed.[60] According to western and pro-Iraqi government press, the residents of the city were de facto prisoners,[61] forbidden to leave the city unless they left ISIL a significant collateral of family members, personal wealth and property. They may then leave the city after paying a significant "departure tax"[62] for a three-day pass (for a higher fee they can surrender their home, pay the fee and leave for good) and if those with a three-day pass fail to return within that time, their assets would be seized and their family would be killed.[63]

Most female Yazidis from Mosul and the greater Mosul region (Nineveh) were imprisoned and occasionally killed for resistance[64] to being sold as sex slaves.[65] Islamic State killed or expelled most minority groups and forcibly converted some Yazidi males and Christians to Islam. Women were required to cover their bodies from head to foot in a strict variant of Sharia rule, and men were required to fully grow their beards and hair in line with Islamic State edicts. Life in Mosul was one of violent oppression, where people suspected of activism against the occupiers, resistance activities, homosexuality, promiscuity or adultery were brutally and summarily tortured and murdered.[66]

The ISIL governor of Mosul, Alian Natiq Mabroush was killed on 18 March 2016, along with ten other jihadist leaders, in a U.S. airstrike.[67]

During the occupation, residents fought back against ISIL. In one notable incident, they were able to kill five ISIL militants and destroy two of their vehicles.[68]


Women were required to be accompanied by a male guardian[51][69] and wear clothing that covered their body completely, including gloves for the hands, niqab for the head, and khimar for the full coverage of the body from shoulders to feet.[66]

According to Canadian-based NGO the RINJ Foundation, which operates medical clinics in Mosul,[70] rape cases in the city prove a pattern of genocide, and will lead to a conviction of genocide against the Islamic State, in the International Criminal Court, a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for war-time rape, genocide, crimes against humanity, and aggression.[71][72]

In August 2015, ISIL was reported to be selling captured women and girls to sex slave traders.[73]

Persecution of religious and ethnic minorities and destruction of cultural sites

ISIL issued an edict expelling (in effect ethnically cleansing) the remaining predominantly ethnic Assyrian and Armenian Christian Mosul citizens, after the Christians refused to attend a meeting to discuss their future status. According to Duraid Hikmat, an expert on minority relationships and resident of Mosul, the Christians were fearful to attend.[74] Emboldened ISIL authorities systematically destroyed and vandalized Abrahamic cultural artifacts, such as the cross from St. Ephrem's Cathedral, the tomb of Jonah, and a statue of the Virgin Mary. ISIL militants destroyed and pillaged the Tomb of Seth in Mosul. Artifacts within the tomb were removed to an unknown location.[75]

Students from Muslim Shia and Sufi minorities were also been abducted.[8]

According to a UN report, ISIL forces persecuted ethnic groups in and near Mosul. The Assyrians, Kurds, Armenians, Yazidis, Turcoman, Mandeans, Kawliya and Shabaks were victims of unprovoked religiously-motivated murders, assaults, theft, kidnappings, and the destruction of their cultural sites.[74]

  • Mosque of the Prophet Yunus or Younis (Jonah): On one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins, used to rise the Mosque (an Assyrian Church year[clarification needed]) of Prophet Younis "Biblical Jonah". Jonah (Yonan) the son of Amittai, from the 8th century BC, is believed to be buried here, where King Esarhaddon of Assyria had once built a palace. It was one of the most important mosques in Mosul, and one of the few historic mosques that are found on the east side of the city. On 24 July 2014, the building was destroyed by explosives set by forces of Islamic State.[76]
  • Mosque of the Prophet Jerjis (Georges): The mosque is believed to be the burial place of Prophet Jerjis. Built of marble with shen reliefs and renovated last in 1393 AD it was mentioned by the explorer Ibn Jubair in the 12th century AD, and is believed also to embrace the tomb of Al-Hur bin Yousif.
  • Mashad Yahya Abul Kassem: Built in the 13th century it was on the right bank of the Tigris and was known for its conical dome, decorative brickwork and calligraphy engraved in Mosul blue marble.
  • Mosul library: Including the Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library. Among the 112,709 books and manuscripts thought lost are a collection of Iraqi newspapers dating from the early 20th century, as well as maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period; some were registered on a UNESCO rarities list. The library was ransacked and destroyed by explosives on 25 February 2015.[77]
  • Mosul Museum and Nergal Gate: Statues and artifacts that date from the Assyrian and Akkadian empires, including artefacts from sites including the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Ashur, Arrapha, Dur-Sharrukin and Kalhu (Nimrud) and the Neo-Assyrian site of Hatra.[78][79] Their plans for uprising were accelerated when IS scheduled the destruction of the al-Ḥadbā[80]
  • Turkish diplomats and consular staff were detained for over 100 days.[81]

Human rights

Scores of people were executed without fair trial.[82][83] Civilians living in Mosul were not permitted to leave ISIL-controlled areas. ISIL executed several civilians who tried to flee Mosul.[84]

Armed opposition

Iraqi army convoy in Mosul, 17 November 2016
Iraqi army convoy in Mosul, 17 November 2016

The urban guerrilla warfare groups may be called the Nabi Yunus Brigade after the Nabi Yunus mosque, or the Kataeb al-Mosul (Mosul Brigade).[85] The brigade claimed to have killed ISIL members with sniper fire.[86] In the countryside around Mosul, Kurdish and Assyrian militia also took up arms to resist ISIL oppression, and successfully repelled ISIL attacks on Kurdish and Assyrian towns and villages.[87][88]

Battle of Mosul (2016–2017)

After more than two years of ISIL occupation of Mosul, Iraqi, Kurdish, American and French forces launched a joint offensive to recapture the city on 16 October 2016.[89][90] The battle for Mosul was considered key in the military intervention against IS.[91] Turkish warplanes participated in the coalition strikes on Mosul, amid the escalating dispute between Baghdad and Ankara about the Turkish presence in Bashiqa.[92] A military offensive to retake the city was the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the 2003 invasion by U.S. and coalition forces[93] On 9 July 2017, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi arrived in preparation to announce the full liberation of Mosul and reclamation of the city after three years of ISIL control.[94] A formal declaration was made on the next day.[95] However, the battle continued for another couple of weeks in the Old City, before Iraqi forces regained full control of Mosul on 21 July 2017.[96][97]


A souk (traditional market) in Mosul, 1932
A souk (traditional market) in Mosul, 1932

During the 20th century, Mosul had been indicative of the mingling ethnic and religious cultures of Iraq. There used to be a Sunni Arab majority in urban areas, such as downtown Mosul west of the Tigris; across the Tigris and further north in the suburban areas, thousands of Assyrians, Kurds, Turkmens, Shabaks, Yazidis, Armenians and Mandeans made up the rest of Mosul's population.[98] Shabaks were concentrated on the eastern outskirts of the city.


Celebration at the Syriac Orthodox Monastery in Mosul, early 20th century
Celebration at the Syriac Orthodox Monastery in Mosul, early 20th century

Mosul has predominant Sunni population. This city had an ancient Jewish population. Like their counterparts elsewhere in Iraq, most were forced out in 1950–51. Most Iraqi Jews have moved to Israel, and some to the United States.[99] In 2003, during the Iraq War, a rabbi in the American army found an abandoned, dilapidated synagogue in Mosul dating back to the 13th century.[100][101]

During the IS occupation, religious minorities were targeted by IS to convert to Islam, pay tribute (jizya) money, leave, or be killed.[102] During the IS attack on Mosul, over 100,000 Christians fled the city.[103] The persecution of Christians in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plains removed a Christian community that had been present in the region since the 1st century AD.[104]


View of the Tigris river in Mosul
View of the Tigris river in Mosul

The Mosul Dam was built in the 1980s to supply Mosul with hydroelectricity and water. However water supply cuts are common[105] and mobile phone networks have been shut down.[106] Several reports have described the dam as very dangerous and in need of repairs, repairs that could not be performed because of the war with ISIL. Unfortunately, over two million have fled the city of Mosul because of acts of terrorism.

There are five bridges crossing the Tigris in Mosul, known from north to south as:[107]

  • Al Shohada Bridge (also known as "Third Bridge")
  • Fifth Bridge
  • Old Bridge (or "Iron Bridge", also known as "First Bridge")
  • Al Huriya Bridge (literally: "Freedom Bridge", also known as "Second Bridge")
  • Fourth Bridge

During the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) between ISIL and the Iraqi Army supported by an international coalition, two bridges were 'damaged' by coalition airstrikes in October 2016, two others in November, and the Old Bridge was 'disabled' in early December.[107] According to the BBC in late December, the bridges were targeted to disrupt the resupply of ISIL forces in East Mosul from West Mosul.[107] In January 2017, CNN reported that ISIL itself had 'destroyed' all bridges to slow the Iraqi ground troops' advance, citing Iraqi commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah.[108]

During the last stages of battle to retake Mosul, Lise Grande stated that per an initial assessment, basic infrastructure repair will cost over 1 billion USD. She stated that while stabilization in east Mosul can be achieved in two months, in some districts of Mosul it might take years with six out of 44 districts almost completely destroyed. All districts of Mosul received light or moderate damage.[109] Per the United Nations, 15 districts out of the 54 residential districts in the western half of Mosul were heavily damaged while at least 23 were moderately damaged.[110]



Mosul has a hot semi-arid climate (BSh), verging on the Mediterranean climate (Csa), with extremely hot dry summers and moderately wet, relatively cool winters.

Climate data for Mosul
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.1
Average high °C (°F) 12.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 7.3
Average low °C (°F) 2.2
Record low °C (°F) −17.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 62.1
Average precipitation days 11 11 12 9 6 0 0 0 0 5 7 10 71
Source #1: World Meteorological Organisation (UN)[111]
Source #2: Weatherbase (extremes only)[112]

Historical and religious buildings

Mosul is rich in old historical places and ancient buildings: mosques, castles, churches, monasteries, and schools, many of which have architectural features and decorative work of significance. The town centre is dominated by a maze of streets and attractive 19th-century houses. There are old houses here of beauty. The markets are particularly interesting not simply for themselves alone but for the mixture of people who jostle there: Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Iraqi Jews, Kurdish Jews, Iraqi Turkmens, Armenians, Yazidi, Mandeans, Romani and Shabaks.

The Mosul Museum contains many interesting finds from the ancient sites of the old Assyrian capital cities Nineveh and Nimrud. The Mosul Museum is a beautiful old building, around a courtyard and with an impressive façade of Mosul marble containing displays of Mosul life depicted in tableau[clarification needed] form. Recently, On February 26, 2015, IS militants destroyed the ancient Assyrian artifacts of the museum.

The English writer Agatha Christie lived in Mosul whilst her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archaeologist, was involved in the excavation in Nimrud.

Mosques and shrines

  • Umayyad Mosque: The first ever in the city, built in 640 AD by Utba bin Farqad Al-Salami after he conquered Mosul in the reign of Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab. The only original part extant to recent times was the remarkably elaborate brickwork 52m high minaret that leans like the Tower of Pisa, called Al-Hadba (The Humped). It was largely destroyed during the Battle of Mosul.
  • The Great (Nuriddin) Mosque: Built by Nuriddin Zangi in 1172 AD next door to the Umayyad Mosque. Ibn Battuta (the great Moroccan traveller) found a marble fountain there and a mihrab (the niche that indicates the direction of Mecca) with a Kufic inscription. It was reportedly destroyed during the Battle of Mosul.
  • Mujahidi Mosque: The mosque dates back to 12th century AD, and is distinguished for its shen[clarification needed] dome and elaborately wrought mihrab.
  • Prophet Younis Mosque and Shrine: Located east of the city, and included the tomb of Prophet Younis (Jonah), dating back to the 8th century BC, with a tooth of the whale that swallowed and later released him. It was completely demolished by IS in July 2014.[113]
  • Prophet Jirjis Mosque and Shrine: The late 14th century mosque and shrine honoring Prophet Jirjis (George) was built over the Quraysh cemetery. It was destroyed by IS in July 2014.[114]
  • Prophet Daniel Shrine: A Tomb attributed to Prophet Daniel was destroyed by IS in July 2014.[115][116]
  • Hamou Qado (Hema Kado) Mosque: An Ottoman-era mosque in the central Maydan area built in 1881, and officially named Mosque of Abdulla Ibn Chalabi Ibn Abdul-Qadi.[117] It was destroyed by IS in March 2015 because it contained a tomb that was revered and visited by local Muslims on Thursdays and Fridays.[118]

Churches and monasteries

Mosul had the highest proportion of Assyrian Christians of all the Iraqi cities outside of the Kurdish region, and contains several interesting old churches, some of which originally date back to the early centuries of Christianity. Its ancient Assyrian churches are often hidden and their entrances in thick walls are not easy to find. Some of them have suffered from overmuch restoration.

  • Shamoun Al-Safa (St. Peter, Mar Petros): This church dates from the 13th century is and named after Shamoun Al-Safa or St. Peter (Mar Petros in Assyrian Aramaic). Earlier it had the name of the two Apostles, Peter and Paul, and was inhabited by the nuns of the Sacred Hearts.
  • Church of St. Thomas (Mar Touma in Assyrian Aramaic): One of the oldest historical churches, named after St. Thomas the Apostle who preached the Gospel in the East, including India. The exact time of its foundation is unknown, but it was before 770 AD, since Al-Mahdi, the Abbasid Caliph, is mentioned as listening to a grievance concerning this church on his trip to Mosul.
  • Mar Petion Church: Mar Petion, educated by his cousin in a monastery, was martyred in 446 AD. It is the first Chaldean Catholic church in Mosul, after the union of many Assyrians with Rome in the 17th century. It dates back to the 10th century, and lies 3 m below street level. This church suffered destruction, and it has been reconstructed many times. A hall was built on one of its three parts in 1942. As a result, most of its artistic features have been severely damaged.
  • Ancient Tahira Church (The Immaculate): Near Bash Tapia, considered one of the most ancient churches in Mosul. No evidence helps to determine its exact area. It could be either the remnants of the church of the Upper Monastery or the ruined Mar Zena Church. Al-Tahira Church dates back to the 7th century, and it lies 3 m below street level. Reconstructed last in 1743.
  • Mar Hudeni Church: It was named after Mar Ahudemmeh (Hudeni) Maphrian of Tikrit who was martyred in 575 AD. Mar Hudeni is an old church of the Tikritans in Mosul. It dates back to the 10th century, lies 7 m below street level and was first reconstructed in 1970. People can get mineral water from the well in its yard. The chain, fixed in the wall, is thought to cure epileptics.
  • St. George's Monastery (Mar Gurguis): One of the oldest churches in Mosul, named after St. George, located to the north of Mosul, was probably built late in the 17th century. Pilgrims from different parts of the North[clarification needed] visit it yearly in the spring, when many people also go out to its whereabouts on holiday.[clarification needed] It is about 6 m below street level. A modern church was built over the old one in 1931, abolishing much of its archeological significance. The only monuments left are a marble door-frame decorated with a carved Estrangelo (Syriac) inscription, and two niches, which date back to the 13th or 14th century.
  • Mar Matte: This famous monastery is situated about 20 km (12 mi) east of Mosul on the top of a high mountain (Mount Maqloub). It was built by Mar Matte, a monk who fled with several other monks in 362 AD from the Monastery of Zuknin near the City of Amid (Diyarbakir) in the southern part of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the north of Iraq during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361–363 AD). It has a precious library containing Syrianic scriptures.
  • Monastery of Mar Behnam: Also called Deir Al-Jubb (The Cistern Monastery) and built in the 12th or 13th century, it lies in the Nineveh Plain near Nimrud about 32 km (20 mi) southwest of Mosul. The monastery, a great fort-like building, rises next to the tomb of Mar Behnam, a prince who was killed by the Sassanians, perhaps during the 4th century AD. A legend made him a son of an Assyrian king.
  • St. Elijah's Monastery (Dair Mar Elia): Dating from the 6th century, it was the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, until its destruction by IS in January 2016.[119][120]

Other Christian historical buildings:

  • The Roman Catholic Church (built by the Dominican Fathers in Nineveh Street in 1893)
  • Mar Michael
  • Mar Elias
  • Mar Oraha
  • Rabban Hormizd Monastery, the monastery of Notre-Dame des Semences, near the Assyrian town of Alqosh

Other sites

  • Bash Tapia Castle: A ruined castle rising high over the Tigris, which was one of the few remnants of Mosul's old walls until it was blown up by IS in 2015.
  • Qara Serai (The Black Palace): The remnants of the 13th-century palace of Sultan Badruddin Lu'lu'.



The so-called Mosul School of Painting refers to a style of miniature painting that developed in northern Iraq in the late 12th to early 13th century under the patronage of the Zangid dynasty (1127–1222). In technique and style the Mosul school was similar to the painting of the Seljuq Turks, who controlled Iraq at that time, but the Mosul artists had a sharper sense of realism based on the subject matter and degree of detail in the painting rather than on representation in three dimensions, which did not occur. Most of the Mosul iconography was Seljuq—for example, the use of figures seated cross-legged in a frontal position. Certain symbolic elements however, such as the crescent and serpents, were derived from the classical Mesopotamian repertory.

Most Mosul paintings were illustrations of manuscripts—mainly scientific works, animal books, and lyric poetry. A frontispiece painting, now held in the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, dating from a late 12th century copy of Galen's medical treatise, the Kitab al-diriyak ("Book of Antidotes"), is a good example of the earlier work of the Mosul school. It depicts four figures surrounding a central, seated figure who holds a crescent-shaped halo. The painting is in a variety of whole hues; reds, blues, greens, and gold. The Küfic lettering is blue. The total effect is best described as majestic.

Another mid-13th century frontispiece held in the Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, to another copy of the same text suggests the quality of later Mosul painting. There is realism in its depiction of the preparation of a ruler's meal and of horsemen engaged in various activities, and the painting is as many hued as that of the early Mosul school, yet it is somehow less spirited. The composition is more elaborate but less successful. By this time the Baghdad school, which combined the styles of the Syrian and early Mosul schools, had begun to dominate. With the invasion of the Mongols in the mid-13th century the Mosul school came to an end, but its achievements were influential in both the Mamluk and the Mongol schools of miniature painting.


From the 13th-century metal craftsmen centred in Mosul influenced the metalwork of the Islamic world, from North Africa to eastern Iran. Under the active patronage of the Zangid dynasty, the Mosul School developed an extraordinarily refined technique of inlay—particularly in silver—far overshadowing the earlier work of the Sāmānids in Persia and the Būyids in Iraq.

Mosul craftsmen used both gold and silver for inlay on bronze and brass. After delicate engraving had prepared the surface of the piece, strips of gold and silver were worked so carefully that not the slightest irregularity appeared in the whole of the elaborate design. The technique was carried by Mosul metalworkers to Aleppo, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, and Persia; similar pieces from those centres are called Mosul bronzes.

Among the most famous surviving Mosul pieces is a brass ewer inlaid with silver from 1232, and now in the British Museum, by the artist Shujā’ ibn Mana. The ewer features representational as well as abstract design, depicting battle scenes, animals and musicians within medallions. Mosul metalworkers also created pieces for Eastern Christians. A candlestick of this variety from 1238 and housed in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, attributed to Dà’ūd ibn Salamah of Mosul, is bronze with silver inlay. It displays the familiar medallions but is also engraved with scenes showing Christ as a child. Rows of standing figures, probably saints, decorate the base. The background is decorated with typically Islamic vine scrolls and intricate arabesques, giving the piece a unique look.


As per IS policy, even primary schools are gender segregated, putting a strain on educational resources.[106] Previously the city's largest university, the University of Mosul was closed in 2014.[121]

On January 15, 2017, 30 schools reopened in the east of the city, allowing 16,000 children to start classes again. Some of them had no education at all since IS took over Mosul in June 2014.[122]


The city has one football team capable of competing in the top-flight of Iraqi football – Mosul FC.

Notable people

See also


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External links

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