Description of Mosul

Mosul (or Mosul, Arabic الموصل, DMG al-Mauṣil; Kurdish مووسڵ Mûsil ; Syriac-Aramaic :ܢܝܢܒ݂ܐ Nîněwâ ) is a city in northern Iraq on the right bank of the Tigris, about 350 kilometers north of Baghdad. It has approximately 2.9 million inhabitants (calculation of 2010) to Baghdad the second largest city in the country. Mosul is the capital of Ninawa Province, one of the disputed areas between the Kurdistan Region and the central government of Iraq. After Mosul's capture by the Islamic State in June 2014, she was the largest city in his hands. After the threat of a mass murder by the IS most of the Christian population left the city. In the battle for Mosul from 17 October 2016 to 9 July 2017, the city was completely reconquered by the coalition forces.


Mosul was a multiethnic and multi-religious city: Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians (also called Aramaeans and Chaldeans), Turkmens and Yazidis lived here. Since then, demography has changed in favor of the Arab population. Kurds blame the Arabization policy of Saddam Hussein, and Christian Assyrians and Chaldeans are responsible for the invasion of the Islamic State. Due to the uncertainty caused by the Iraq war in 2003, many people left the city. Christians in particular have left Mosul after targeted attacks. There is no exact statistic of the population living in the city today.



Mosul was first mentioned by Xenophon in his expedition journals of 401 BC, during the reign of the Persian Achaemenid dynasty in the region. There, Xenophon notes, there is a small town "Mépsila" (Ancient Greek: Μέψιλα) on the Tigris River, in the area where present-day Mosul is located (Anabasis, III.iv.10). Most likely Xenophon's mention refers to a place called Iski-Mosul, or "Old Mosul", located about 30 km north of modern Mosul, six centuries after the records of the Greek historian, the Sasanian city of Bud-Ardashir was built there. Be that as it may, the name Mepsila is undoubtedly the root of the modern name of the city.

In its current form, the name Mosul, or more precisely "Mawşil", translates as "junction" (or "crossroads"). Mosul should not be confused with the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, which is located opposite Mosul on the eastern bank of the Tigris, on the hills of Kuyunjik (Turk. sheep hill). This area, better known as the city of Nabi Yunus ("Prophet Jonah"), today is one of the districts of Mosul and is almost entirely inhabited by Kurds, making it the most Kurdish district of the city. Here was the grave of the biblical prophet Jonah, who lived and died in the then capital of ancient Assyria.

Nineveh was captured and destroyed by the troops of the Babylonians and Medes in 612 BC, so in 401 BC. Xenophon no longer mentions her.

Mosul is also called al-Faiha ("heavenly"), al-Khaḍrah ("green") and al-Hadbah ("humpbacked"), the "Pearl of the North" and "the city of a million warriors".



Excavations have shown that the area around Mosul has been inhabited for 8,000 years. The Bible states that Nineveh was founded by Nimrod, the son of Cush.

Around 850 B.C. King of Assyria Ashurnatsirapal II chose the city of Nimrud, which was located 30 km from present-day Mosul, as his capital. Around 700 B.C. The famous Assyrian king Sennacherib made Nineveh the new capital of Assyria. Hill Kuyunjik on the other side of the river from Mosul became the location of the palaces of King Sennacherib and his grandson Ashurbanipal, who established a library there. Mosul later replaced Nineveh as a foothold on the road that linked Syria and Anatolia with Media. In 612 B.C. e. King of Media Uvahshatra the Great, together with the king of Babylon Nabopolassar, conquered Nineveh. Nineveh became part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, following the conquests of Alexander the Great in 332 BC. Little is known about Mosul from the Hellenistic period, but it probably belonged to the Seleucid satrapy of Mesopotamia, which was conquered by the Parthian Empire in a series of wars that ended in 129 BC. the victory of King Phraates II over the Seleucid ruler Antiochus VII Sidet.

The city changed hands again with the rise of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia in 225. In 637 (according to other sources 641), during the period of the Arab caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, the city was annexed to the Righteous Caliphate.

Mosul received the status of the capital of Mesopotamia under the Umayyads in the 8th century, when it reached the peak of prosperity. During the time of the Abbasids, the city was an important trading center due to its strategic location on the trade routes to India, Persia and the Mediterranean. The Muslim general and conqueror of Sind, Muhammad ibn al-Qasim al-Thaqafi, is believed to have died in Mosul in the 8th century AD. At the end of the 9th century, the Abbasid general Ishaq ibn Kundai and his son Muhammad seized control of the city, but in 893 Mosul came under the direct control of the Abbasids. At the beginning of the 10th century, Mosul came under the rule of the local Arab Hamdanid dynasty. From Mosul, the Hamdanids, under Abdallah ibn Hamdan and his son Nasir al-Dawl, extended their control over the Jazeera for the next few decades, first as Abbasid governors and later as de facto independent rulers. A century later they were driven out by the Uqaylids.

In the XI century, Mosul was conquered by the Turks - the Seljuks. After a period of semi-independent Atabegs, it became the center of the Zangid dynasty in 1127.

Sultan Saladin of Egypt unsuccessfully besieged the city in 1182, but eventually gained control of it in 1186.

In the 13th century, Mosul was captured by the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan's grandson Khan Hulagu, but was spared the usual destruction in such cases, because its governor, Badr al-Din Lulu, helped the khan in his subsequent campaign in Syria. After the defeat of the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut against the Egyptian Mamluks, the son of Badr ad-Din took the side of the latter, and this led to the destruction of the city, which later regained some importance, but never regained its original splendor. From now on, Mosul was ruled by the Mongol dynasties of the Ilkhanids and Jalairids, and the city escaped destruction by the Uzbek emir - the conqueror Tamerlane.

In 1535, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent annexed Mosul to his empire, taking it from the Safavids. Although Mesopotamia had been formally part of the Ottoman Empire since 1533, by 1638 Mosul was still considered a stronghold of great strategic importance, defending the approaches to Anatolia and the Syrian coast. In 1916, a secret agreement was made between the French and British governments, known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement. According to him, Syria and the ridge of Lebanon came under the control of France, and Mesopotamia (later - Palestine) - under the control of the British military. Mosul was in the northern zone and would have received French administration, but the discovery of oil in the region in 1918 pushed the British government into another negotiations with the French, as a result of which Mosul entered the British zone of influence.

In October 1918, after the Armistice of Mudros was signed, British troops occupied Mosul. After the war, the city and its environs became part of the mandated territory of Mesopotamia (1920-1932). This mandate was contested by Turkey, which continued to claim the region on the grounds that it was under Ottoman control at the time of the signing of the armistice. Under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the dispute over Mosul was left for further decision by the League of Nations. Iraqi possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations and through its mediation in 1926 an agreement was signed between Turkey and Great Britain, according to which the former Ottoman vilayet of Mosul became the province of Nineveh (Nineveh) of Iraq.


In November 2004, simultaneously with the attacks of the US and Iraqi armies on the city of Fallujah, the battle with the rebels for Mosul began. On November 10, militants carried out coordinated attacks on police stations. The surviving police officers fled the city, leaving Mosul without a police force for the next month. Shortly after Mosul was occupied by the rebels, units of the US 25th Infantry Division and coalition forces (mostly Albanians) went on the offensive and began to gain a foothold in areas of the city. Most of the city was eventually liberated from the insurgents, but Mosul has since been hit hard by security threats (including military action, as well as killings of civilians by insurgents and criminals), unprecedented levels of violence (especially ethnically motivated), the continuous destruction of the city's infrastructure , neglect and mismanagement of the occupation administration.

In 2008, many Assyrian Christians (about 12,000) fled the city after a wave of killings and threats against their community. The murder of a dozen Assyrians, the threat that others would be killed if they did not convert to Islam, and the destruction of their homes caused the Christian population to flee the city. Some families crossed the borders of Syria and Turkey, while others were given shelter in churches and monasteries. All these events have deprived the city of its historical, scientific and intellectual funds during the last 4 years /?clarification of the need/, when many scientists, professors, academicians, doctors, medical workers, 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 threat of being shot, just as happened in other countries in Iraq in the years after 2003.

On June 4, 2014, Mosul was attacked by ISIS militants (as predicted by the US Defense Intelligence Agency and other sources) and fell on June 10, after six days of fighting. The Islamic State expelled or destroyed most minority groups and forcibly converted some Yazidi and Christian men to Islam. Sharia law has been introduced in the city, women must cover their bodies from head to toe, and men must grow beards and hair. Most Yazidi women from and around Mosul are imprisoned and many have been killed or sold as sex slaves. Islamic State (IS) militants executed more than 800 women in Mosul, Iraq, in a year and a half. Most of the victims were shot by the terrorists after sentencing by the Sharia court established by IS. Among the dead women are lawyers, notaries, various civil servants, hairdressers, as well as candidates for councils of deputies. The inhabitants of the city became de facto hostages, they were forbidden to leave the city until they hand over all their property to the Islamists. They were allowed to leave the city only after paying a substantial "exit tax".

On January 21, 2015, the US launched airstrikes in support of the Kurdish offensive to help the Peshmerga launch the operation to liberate Mosul. That day, 5,000 Kurdish soldiers liberated several villages near Mosul, amid disinformation that the Iraqi army was preparing to attack the city. Peshmerga fighters began to move towards the outskirts of the city. On January 22-23, 2015, US aircraft intensified airstrikes on Islamist positions in the Mosul region.

On January 27, ISIS launched a surprise attack in the Kirkuk region in an attempt to distract Kurdish soldiers from Mosul. However, the Peshmerga forces managed to stop the attack.

On Feb. 9, John Allen, the US coordinator for the international coalition against ISIS, said the Iraqi army, backed by the coalition, would launch a ground offensive "in the coming weeks" to retake Mosul. On February 10, it became known that the Peshmerga fighters are only 9-14 kilometers from the center of Mosul, on the northwestern outskirts. However, the Kurds stopped there, saying they were waiting for further orders to move deeper into the city.

On February 17, Iraqi Colonel Masoud Salih said that it would take at least 30,000 soldiers and at least 10 months to liberate Mosul. In addition, he said that another Iraqi official estimated the number of militants in the city at 12,000, and not at 30,000, as the Islamists themselves claimed.

On March 11, Islamists threatened the people of Mosul through loudspeakers that they would behead anyone who tried to leave the city. The announcement came a day after US aircraft dropped leaflets warning of an impending military confrontation and advising civilians to leave the city.

The summer of 2015 did not bring the beginning of the offensive against Mosul. On September 13, US Ambassador John Allen announced that Mosul would be captured "within months". The Iraqi forces also announced that they are currently training 20,000 soldiers to take back Mosul.


On Sept. 21, 90 US troops arrived at the Makhmur base, southwest of the Kurdish Iraqi capital of Erbil, to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces in preparing for the operation.


Mosul offensive (2016)

On March 24, 2016, the Iraqi military launched an operation to liberate Mosul. On the same day, the Iraqi army liberated several villages from ISIS.

On June 4, Kurdish militias stopped 30-40 km east of Mosul.

On July 9, the Iraqi army recaptured a strategic military bridge located near the city of Kayyara. ISIS forces retreated towards the city, blowing up the bridge and oil fields.

A new large-scale attack on Mosul began early in the morning on August 14, the Kurds managed to liberate seven villages southeast of Mosul from ISIS militants.

On August 23, the city of Kayyara was liberated.

On October 16, 2016, the Iraqi military launched an assault on Mosul and its environs. On October 18, the Iraqi military captured a suburb of Mosul, 10 km from the city.

On October 21, 2016, ISIS militants counterattacked the city of Kirkuk (located 140 km from Mosul), occupying 7 city blocks. The prisoners were released from the local prison. On October 22, the Iraqi army drove ISIS fighters out of the city.

On October 31, 2016, the main forces of the Iraqi army were located 1 km from Mosul. The advanced forces of the Iraqi army entered Mosul.

On November 1, 2016, Iraqi Shia militias took control of the Mosul-Raqqa highway, surrounding Mosul.

On November 4, 2016, the Iraqi military liberated 6 eastern districts of Mosul. By December 28, 2016, the Iraqi army had liberated most of Mosul (40 out of 56 neighborhoods).

By January 23, 2017, the army had liberated all of eastern Mosul, reaching the Tigris River. On February 19, the offensive of the Iraqi army began on the western part of Mosul. Two villages were occupied south of the airport. On February 23, the Iraqi military liberated the Mosul airport.

On July 10, 2017, ISIS fighters were completely driven out of Mosul.

According to the UN, 15 of the 54 residential areas on the western side of the city were almost completely destroyed and uninhabitable. In 23 more districts, moderate damage was recorded, 16 districts were slightly affected. The eastern part, liberated at the first stage, suffered to a lesser extent. An analysis of satellite images shows that about 10,000 buildings were significantly damaged or completely destroyed, mostly residential buildings. If multi-storey buildings are multiplied by the number of floors, then the destruction is estimated at 32 thousand units. The famous An-Nuri Cathedral Mosque was completely destroyed. About 40 thousand people died, over 800 thousand became forced migrants.



Mosul has a hot semi-arid climate with very hot, almost dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Mosul, although not at a very high altitude, receives much more rainfall than much of Iraq. Rains here are almost three times more than in Baghdad and Basra, although they are much closer to the Persian Gulf. There is enough moisture for the cultivation of wheat and barley. The Kurdish areas in the north are even wetter.

Snow has fallen three times in recent years: February 23, 2004, February 9, 2005 and January 10, 2013.



Ethnic composition

Mosul was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city: Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians (also called Aramaeans and Chaldeans), Turkmen and Yazidis lived here.

Demographics have since changed in favor of the Arab population. Kurds blame Saddam Hussein's Arabization policy, and Christian Assyrians and Chaldeans blame the invasion of the Islamic State.

Because of the insecurity caused by the Iraq War in 2003, many people left the city. Christians in particular have left Mosul after targeted attacks. There are no exact statistics of the population living in the city today.



Most of Mosul's residents are Sunni Muslims, with the majority of them being Arabs and the minority being Kurds.

Mosul looks back on a 1,600-year-old Christian tradition. Until recently, the city was the seat of several archbishops of eastern churches of the Syriac-speaking tradition (see also: Christians in Iraq). The cathedral of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and also the oldest church in the city is the Cathedral of St. Thomas from the year 640, less than 100 m from the church of the same name, St. Thomas of the Syrian Catholic Church, which opened in 1863. However, the 17th-century Syrian Catholic al-Tahira Cathedral (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception) served as the latter's cathedral, which was almost completely destroyed in 2017 but is due to be rebuilt. The Chaldean Catholic Church, in turn, had its episcopal see in the medieval Mart Meskinta Church until it was moved to the 18th-century Chaldean al-Tahira Cathedral in the 1980s.

After the capture of Mosul by fighters from the ISIS or Islamic State group, Christian residents were given the choice of either leaving the city, converting to Islam or being executed. The vast majority of Christians then left Mosul at the end of July, meaning that the city's Christian tradition has temporarily come to an end. According to Archbishop Louis Raphaël I Sako, there were still 25,000 Christians living in Mosul when ISIS came to power, and according to the BBC there were even 35,000.

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, who was kidnapped on January 17, 2005, was released the next day without paying any ransom. The Armenian church building was severely damaged by an act of terrorism in 2004; At the beginning of 2006, Archbishop Avag Asadurian received a promise from President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari that the church should be rebuilt. Near Mosul, the Syrian Orthodox Church runs the St. Ephrem Seminary for the training of priests and young church members. The current abbot is Archbishop Mar Saverius Ishak Saka (* 1931).

On February 2, 2015, Islamic State terrorists blew up one of Iraq's largest and oldest Chaldean Catholic churches, the Church of the Virgin Mary, in Mosul. In April 2016, the historic 19th-century Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Hour was destroyed.



One of the beautiful sights is the temple of the Yazidis "Lalesh", the shape and texture of the domes of which symbolize the sun's rays falling on the earth.

The glory of the city was brought by its wide streets (the central Royal Street reached 26 m wide), the colossal palace of King Ashurbanipal (VIII-VII centuries BC, its excavations form the center of the modern archaeological site), the palace of Sennacherib - the founder of the city, the famous the royal Kuyunjik library with a huge collection of cuneiform tablets (archaeologists found over 30 thousand samples, it was here that the text of the poem about Gilgamesh was first found), fortress walls with a total length of more than 12 km with 15 gates, as well as numerous sculptural monuments (including the famous statues winged bulls and lions that once adorned the city gates) and a clear layout of city blocks (it is believed that this was the first city in the history of mankind, created according to a single urban planning scheme).

The famous English writer Agatha Christie lived in Mosul while her second husband, an archaeologist, participated in excavations at Nimrud.


Mosques of Mosul

The Umayyad Mosque: the first in the city, built in 640 after the capture of the city by the Arabs during the reign of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab. From the original structure, a 52-meter minaret has been preserved, leaning like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and nicknamed Al-Hadba - “humpbacked”.
An-Nuri Mosque: Built by Imad al-Din Zangi in 1172 next to the Umayyad Mosque. Ibn Battuta (the great Moroccan traveler) described in his notes a marble fountain and a mihrab.
Mujahidi Mosque: Dating back to the 12th century AD, it is distinguished by its graceful dome and elaborately wrought mihrab.
Mosque of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah): was located to the east of the city and included the tomb of the prophet Jonah with the tooth of a whale that swallowed it. Completely destroyed by ISIS in July 2014.
Mosque of the Prophet Jirjis (George): was built in the XIV century on the cemetery of the Quraysh. Destroyed by ISIS in July 2014.
Temple of the Prophet Daniyar (Daniel): A tomb allegedly belonging to the biblical prophet Daniel was destroyed by ISIS in July 2014.
Hema Kado Mosque: Ottoman-era mosque in the central square, built in 1881 and officially named Abdullah ibn Chalabi Ibn Abdul-Qadi Mosque. Destroyed by ISIS in March 2015


Churches and Monasteries

Mosul had the highest percentage of Assyrian Christians of any Iraqi city outside the Kurdish region and retained several ancient churches, some dating back to the first centuries of Christianity. Ancient Assyrian churches are often hidden and the entrances in the thick walls are not easy to find.

Monastery of Shamoun Al-Safa (Saint Peter, Mar Petros): dates from the 13th century and is named after Saint Peter (Mar Petros in Assyrian Aramaic). Previously, it bore the name of the Apostles Peter and Paul and was inhabited by the nuns of the Sacred Heart.
Church of St. Thomas (Mar Tuma): one of the oldest historical churches, named after the holy Apostle Thomas, who preached the Gospel in the East, including India. The exact time of foundation is not known, but it certainly happened before 770, as it is mentioned that al-Mahdi, the Abbasid caliph, listened to complaints about this church on his trip to Mosul.
Mar Petion Church: Mar Petion was martyred in 446. This is the first Chaldean Catholic temple in Mosul, after the conversion of many Assyrians to Catholicism in the 17th century. It dates back to the 10th century and lies 3 m below street level. The church often suffered from destruction and was rebuilt many times.
The ancient church of At-Taher (Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary): dates back to the 7th century and lies 3 m below street level. Reconstructed in 1743.
Church of the Miraculous Virgin, built by the Dominicans in the 19th century. The clock tower of this church was built with donations from Empress Eugenie, the wife of the last emperor of France, Napoleon III.
Church of Mar Khudeni: named after Metropolitan Mar Ahudemeh of Tikrit, who was martyred in 575. Dating back to the 10th century, it is located 7 m below street level and was first reconstructed in 1970. The well circuit in the churchyard is believed to cure epilepsy.
Monastery of St. George (Mar Gurgis): located north of Mosul, was probably built at the end of the 17th century. The modern temple was built on the site of the old one in 1931.
Mar Matte Monastery: Located about 20 km east of Mosul on top of the high mountain Maklub. It was built by Mar Matte, a monk who fled with several other monks in 362 from the monastery of Zuknin near Diyarbakir to northern Iraq during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Has an invaluable library containing Scripture in Syriac.
Mar Benam Monastery: Built in the 12th or 13th century on a plain near Nimrud, 32 km southwest of Mosul. The monastery was erected over the tomb of Prince Mar Benam, who was killed by the Sassanids, possibly in the 4th century AD. The legend made him the son of the king of Assyria.
Monastery of Saint Elijah (Deir Mar Ilyas): the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, dating back to the 6th century.
Monastery of Rabbana Hormizda.


Other objects

Bash Tapia Castle: was built in the 12th century. The ruins of the castle overlooking the Tigris were blown up by ISIS in 2015.
Kara Serai ("Black Palace"): the ruins of the 13th century palace of Sultan Badr ad-Din Lulu.
Mosul Library: Collection of Sunni Muslim Manuscripts, 265 Years Old Latin Church Library, Dominican Monastery and Museum Library of Mosul. Among the 112,709 books and manuscripts were collections of Iraqi newspapers dating from the early 20th century, maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period, some of which were registered on the UNESCO rarities list. The library was looted and destroyed by explosives on February 25, 2015.
Mosul Museum and Nirgal Gate: Statues and artifacts that date back to the Assyrian and Akkadian empires, including artifacts from Nineveh and Nimrud. A significant part of the exhibits was destroyed or looted by ISIS