Michael Press in Aeon:
Mosul’s old city lies in ruins. A major section of the third largest city in Iraq has been destroyed by war. Two years after the Iraqi government and the United States-led coalition recaptured it from ISIS, the city is still noticeably scarred. Many residents have fled, or are detained in camps elsewhere in the country. Those who have returned live amid the ruins of their old houses and their old lives. But what is being reconstructed is cultural heritage. UNESCO has worked with the Iraqi government to launch a campaign called ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul’, focusing on a handful of historic monuments in the city. The United Arab Emirates has pledged $50 million to rebuild the 850-year-old al-Nuri mosque and its minaret, known as al-Hadba (or the hunchback), a symbol of the city.
What is most striking about this campaign is its seeming indifference to the lives of the people who call the city home. UNESCO’s promotional video pans through the old city; block after block after block lies completely devastated … only for the camera to abandon them for the one monument that will actually be rebuilt. What kind of reconstruction is this, and who benefits from it?