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Mosul, a literary café for cultural and social rebirth in aftermath of ISIS

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Mosul (AsiaNews) – The idea of ​​opening a place dedicated to meeting and reading “came while we were under occupation”, when culture and books became the only weapon to oppose the insane ideology of Islamic State jihadists (SI , ex Isis).

Today, a few months after the city’s liberation, the first literary café has been opened in Mosul, the second most important city in Iraq and for over three years the stronghold and capital of the self-styled “Caliphate”. A place where some of the worst Daesh atrocities were consummated (Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) and which today, is struggling to rise from the ashes to be reborn to new life starting also from the books that the militiamen burned in the squares.

The Book Forum opened its doors for the first time at the end of last year and is, according to its visitors, one of the symbols of “incredible resistance” opposed by the metropolis of the north to the Isis culture of death and terror. The café is located near the university, also the subject of jihadist devastation, and was born thanks to the intuition and the work of two thirty-year engineers, with a passion for literature Fahad and Hareth.

The walls are covered with paintings by local and foreign artists; and then there are shelves and shelves on which hundreds of different books can be found. These include Karl Marx and Nietzsche, although these are two atheistic intellectuals confirming the variety and openness on which the structure is based. Groups of students, engaged couples, friends or lonely lovers of reading crowd their tables, accompanying the texts with a good coffee.

“I got the idea while we were under the occupation,” recalls Fahad Sabah. “Before Daesh – he tells LaCroix – I was a contract professor at the university’s oil and mining engineering department, which had just opened. I had also obtained a doctorate in the United States. All this vanished with the entry of ISIS into the city. And I could not even escape, because my twins were about to be born “.

Today the literary café has become a meeting point for students and bibliophiles, but the path that led to its birth is marked by dangers and challenges. Under the occupation of Daesh Fahad refused to collaborate with the men of the “Caliph” and refused to work in a university bent to extremist ideology. He barricaded himself into his home and survived by arranging clandestine antennas and guaranteeing pirated internet connections to neighbors. The security services of Daesh find out and, in order not to denounce his customers, he preferred to abandon the activity and devote himself to his second, great passion: reading. Among the texts that inspired him for to open the Book Forum are the text of the Iraqi sociologist Ali Al Wardi “Preachers of the Sultans” – analysts of political-social problems in the times of the Ottoman Empire – and the Bible, to deepen the knowledge on the Jewish religion. Fahad comments “I could have been executed for this “.

This is echoed by colleague and friend Hareth, who recalls that “one could be punished” even for the possession of books on the Muslim religion “contrary to the doctrine” imposed by Daesh. The text of Ali Al Wardi, he adds, “could cost a minimum of 50 whiplashes”. Music, films, paintings and drawings of women were strictly prohibited. “I am a Muslim – he concludes – but I also read Nietzsche and Marx because they are great thinkers of humanity. Unlike the adult literature, which we prefer to avoid because it is too controversial. We want to remain open to all sectors, hoping one day to change the rules of our society “.

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