Hope in Mosul: ‘He planted death and destruction, we plant life’

In a teahouse in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, the TV is on all day. Buyers are looking at the violence of the war in Ukraine. “Recognizable,” Firas sighed and took another sip of his super sweet tea. “We know all too well what war means, so the compassion here is great.”

Around the corner, Abdulaziz Saleh and his team from Green Mosul walk among the ruins of the city. This spring, 9,000 trees are being planted throughout the city. New olive trees already exist in the Nouri Mosque, where the caliphate of the Islamic State was proclaimed in 2014. “IS has planted death and destruction here, and we are now planting life,” Saleh said.

He says the idea came about through a message on Facebook and Twitter about the number of trees that did not survive the war. Saleh: “They were burned or cut down to be used as fuel in the winter. Now that we are replanting on a large scale, you can feel life coming back.”

Strong connection with the city

For years, the inhabitants of this metropolis lived under the rule of the terror of Muslim extremists. Still, many people chose to stay. Much of Mosul was destroyed during a months-long struggle to liberate the city from IS. Saleh: “We never left Mosul. We went through everything here because we love this city so much and we feel a strong connection. And now we are here and the terrorists have fled.”

All his volunteers gather at the University of Mosul. The campus was also occupied by IS, laboratories were used to produce the bombs. Many windows are still broken. But students come and go again, on their way to the lecture halls.

The famous theater in Mosul is also in ruins. Hundreds of pigeons built their nests in the broken roof. There is music though.

Correspondent Daisy Mohr visited a theater in Mosul and met a musician who wanted nothing more than to reorganize concerts:

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