The University of Mosul is in the final stages of its efforts to re-emerge from the ruins left by the Islamic State. It announced this month that its publishing house, Dar Ibn Al Atheer Printing and Publishing, will officially reopen in November.
Two other reconstruction projects, of the university’s central library and theater, are also nearing completion, and other building projects are finished or well underway.
The campus’s progress toward recovery stands in sharp contrast to the scene that greeted members of the university’s Division of Construction and Projects when they first visited the campus after eastern Mosul was liberated from the militant group in January 2017.
Looking on soot-covered, bombed-out buildings, the engineers felt hopeless and, for a moment, they thought it was the end of Iraq’s second-largest university.
“More than 150 buildings suffered a damage of 10 to 100 percent,” Osama Ahmed Hamdoun, an engineer and director of the Construction and Projects Division, told Al-Fanar Media.
“More than 12 buildings were leveled to the ground, including the Faculties of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Electrical Engineering, the university press, and themain administration building,” he added. “We also lost 270 vehicles. The total damage to the university exceeded 75 percent.”
“It has contributed to printing hundreds of thousands of books and publications. Yet, it has been completely and brutally burnt and destroyed at the hands of vandalism and hate.”Kossay Al-Ahmady
The university’s president, speaking of the publishing house
But with determination and hard work, the university has set about restoring its infrastructure and resuming academic operations. (See a related article, “Mosul’s Students Return to a Battered Campus.”)
A Distinguished Publishing House
The reopening of Dar Ibn Al-Atheer is the latest success in the rebuilding process.
“The university’s publishing house has been always one of its distinguished scientific edifices,” the university’s president, Kossay Al-Ahmady, said in a statement on Facebook. “It has contributed to printing hundreds of thousands of books and publications. Yet, it has been completely and brutally burnt and destroyed at the hands of vandalism and hate.”
The building was reconstructed with the support of the Iraqi government’s Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terrorist Operations, Al-Ahmady wrote. “It is now back to practice its cultural and scientific role, spreading science and knowledge.”
Established in 1970 and named after Ibn Al-Athir, a famed historian who died in Mosul in the 13th century, the publishing house helped to provide textbooks and references for the university’s educators and students. It also published their theses in Arabic and other languages.
Gallery: Rebuilding a Campus
“We have completed reconstructing the building of Dar Ibn Al-Atheer and equipped it with some advanced printing technologies,” said Hamdoun, the construction director. “So far, we have reconstructed 80 percent of the university’s destroyed facilities.”
Library and Theater Restorations
With more than a million books burned in 2017, the bombing of the university’s Central Library was the most tragic loss of the battle to retake the campus. Student volunteers tried to rescue some of its books, while international organizations donated new ones, but much support is still needed. (See two related articles, “Bringing Books Back to Mosul University Library,” and “Rebuilding Mosul’s Library, Book by Book.”)
On his visit to Germany’s Dortmund Technical University in 2019, Al-Ahmady gave a page of a burnt book as a present to highlight the library’s needs and tragic story.
“Our main goal was to tell the world about Mosul’s untold story,” wrote Al-Ahmady. “Our message has become documented in an art catalog being circulated in Europe, titled ‘The Untold,’ of which we got a copy.”
Meanwhile, efforts to reconstruct the university’s library and theater are in full swing.
“Given their history and being among the university’s icons, reconstructing them presented a great challenge for our engineers,” said Hamdoun.
“We have completed reconstructing the building of Dar Ibn Al-Atheer and equipped it with some advanced printing technologies, So far, we have reconstructed 80 percent of the university’s destroyed facilities.”Ahmed Hamdoun
Director of the university’s Construction and Projects Division
Both buildings suffered major damage. “The library was bombed by seven missiles and its back was fully destroyed,” Hamdoun said. “This required preparing detailed construction studies for each structural element. We restored 67 of its concrete columns, treating the foundations, and rebuilt the posterior part. We completed 90 percent of work so far.”
With funds from the United Nations Development Programme, reconstruction of the university’s theater, the Hall of Al-Jalili, is also almost complete. When finished, it will be Iraq’s largest university theater.
Hamdoun said that the reconstruction process of the two buildings strictly preserved their previous architecture, which is engraved in the minds of the university’s graduates.
Clearing the campus of unexploded bombs, booby-trapped vehicles and other war remnants that ISIS left behind posed a huge challenge.
“The Iraqi army’s military engineers accomplished the task in 45 days only, removing and detonating more than 3,000 explosive devices and more than 200 missiles,” said Hamdoun.
Moreover, the lack of financial allocations forced the university to turn to many parties, mainly the UNDP and the Fund for the Reconstruction of Areas Affected by Terrorist Operations, to provide the urgently needed funds.
With such assistance, the university accomplished reconstructing the buildings of scientific and medical research centers, the College of Education for women, the student center, the Faculties of Science, Environmental Science, Engineering, Law, Fine Arts, Humanities, Nursing, and Pharmacy, among others, in addition to more than 200 different small projects, Hamdoun said.
“We also restored the buildings of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, and male and female dormitories, on-campus and those on Mosul’s western part,” he added.
However, Amera Alrawi, a professor of microbiology, still finds it difficult to pursue her research on campus.
“We sometimes need to move to another faculty to measure the pH or get some distilled water. We lost many of our basic lab devices. We sometimes need to send the samples to the University of Baghdad or the University of Kufa.”Amera Alrawi
A professor of microbiology
“We sometimes need to move to another faculty to measure the pH or get some distilled water,” she told Al-Fanar Media in a Zoom interview. “We lost many of our basic lab devices. We sometimes need to send the samples to the University of Baghdad or the University of Kufa.”
New Buildings and Future Plans
While working on restoring the university’s stadium, nursery, and the Faculties of Medicine and Nursing, the university started erecting new buildings for the College of Administration and Economics, and the Departments of Electronics Engineering and Architecture.
“The new Department of Architecture is quite needed, given the recent increase in student enrollment,” said Nasr Basim Yahya, a fifth-year architecture student. “Developing the new department and increasing admissions is great to build a new generation with architectural visions that will contribute to the city’s progress.”
The university’s future plans include the reconstruction of the administration building, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and the agricultural research center, besides establishing a central garden and an artificial forest on campus, said Mohammed Fadhel, head of the university’s media and public relations division.
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“The epic reconstruction of the university is thanks to the ceaseless day and night work and dedication of the university’s engineers,” added Fadhel, as well as the “vigorous follow-up of the university’s first engineer and captain,” President Al-Ahmady.