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Tigris river
Shrine of Imam Yahya Abu al-Qasim of religious monuments
Adad gate
Old Bridge of Mosul
Tigris, a bridge and Grand Mosque in Mosul
Nīnwē ܢܝ݂ܢܘܹܐ
Mosul is located in Iraq
Location in Iraq
Coordinates: 36°20′N 43°08′E / 36.34°N 43.13°E / 36.34; 43.13Coordinates: 36°20′N 43°08′E / 36.34°N 43.13°E / 36.34; 43.13
Country Iraq
DistrictMosul District
 • Total180 km2 (70 sq mi)
Elevation223 m (732 ft)
 • Total1,683,000
Time zoneUTC+3 (AST)
Area code(s)60
A map of Mosul and its quarters.
Grand mosque of Mosul
City of Mosul
The Shrine of Imam Yahya Abu Al Qasim
Nineveh - Mashki Gate

Mosul (Arabic: الموصل‎, romanizedal-Mawṣil, Kurdish: مووسڵ‎, romanized: Mûsil,[3][4] Turkish: Musul, Syriac: ܡܘܨܠ‎, romanizedMāwṣil[5]) is a major city in northern Iraq, serving as the capital of Nineveh Governorate.[6] Approximately 400 km (250 mi) north of Baghdad, Mosul lies on the Tigris river. The Mosul metropolitan area has grown from the old city on the western side to encompass substantial areas on both the "Left Bank" (east side) and the "Right Bank" (west side), as locals call the two riverbanks. Mosul encloses the ruins of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on its east side.

Mosul and its surroundings have an ethnically and religiously diverse population; a large majority of its population are Arabs, with Assyrians,[7] Turkmens, and Kurds, and other, smaller ethnic minorities comprising the rest of the city's population. Sunni Islam is the largest religion, but there are a significant number of Christians, as well as adherents of other sects of Islam and various other minority religions.

Mosul is considered to be among the larger and more historically and culturally significant cities of the Arab World. Due to Mosul's strategic location it has traditionally serving as a hub of international commerce and travel. The North Mesopotamian dialect of Arabic, commonly known as Moslawi, is named after the city of Mosul and is widely spoken in the region.

Historically, important products of the area include Mosul marble and oil. Mosul is home to the University of Mosul and its renowned Medical College, one of the largest educational and research centers in the Middle East.

Together with the nearby Nineveh Plains, Mosul is one of the historic centers of the Assyrian people.[8]


The city's name is first mentioned by Xenophon in his expeditionary logs in Achaemenid Assyria of 401 BC, during the reign of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. There, he notes a small Assyrian town of "Mépsila" (Ancient Greek: Μέψιλα) on the Tigris around where Mosul is today (Anabasis, III.iv.10). It may be safer to identify Xenophon's Mépsila with the site of Iski Mosul, or "Old Mosul", about 30 km (19 mi) north of modern Mosul, where six centuries after Xenophon's report, the Sasanian Empire's center of Budh-Ardhashir was built. In any case, "Mepsila" is doubtless the root of the modern name.

In its current Arabic form and spelling, the term Mosul, or rather "Mawsil", means "linking point"—or, loosely, "Junction City", in Arabic. On Mosul's eastern side are the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh and Assyrians still call the entire city Nineveh (or Ninweh).[9]

Mosul is also nicknamed al-Faiha ("the Paradise"), al-Khaḍrah ("the Green"), and al-Hadbah ("the Humped"). It is sometimes called "The Pearl of the North"[10] and "the city of a million soldiers".[11]


Ancient era and early Middle Ages[edit]

Dair Mar Elia south of Mosul, Iraq's oldest monastery of the Assyrian Church of the East, dating from the 6th century. It was destroyed by ISIS in 2014.

The area where Mosul lies was an integral part of Assyria from as early as the 25th century BC. After the Akkadian Empire (2335–2154 BC), which united all the peoples of Mesopotamia under one rule, Mosul again became a continuous part of Assyria proper from circa 2050 BC through the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire between 612 and 599 BC. Mosul remained within the geopolitical province of Assyria for another 13 centuries (as a part of Achaemenid Assyria, Seleucid Syria, Roman Assyria and Sasanian Asōristān) until the early Muslim conquests of the mid-7th century. After the Muslim conquests, the region saw a gradual influx of Muslim Arab, Kurdish and Turkic peoples, although indigenous Assyrians continue to use the name Athura for the ecclesiastical province.[citation needed]

Nineveh was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity, and was settled as early as 6000 BC.[12] The city is mentioned in the Old Assyrian Empire (2025–1750), and during the reign of Shamshi-Adad I (1809–1776 BC) it was listed as a centre of worship of the goddess Ishtar, remaining so during the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1056 BC). During the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC) Nineveh grew in size and importance, particularly from the reigns of Tukulti-Ninurta II and Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BC) onward; he chose the city of Kalhu (the Biblical Calah, modern Nimrud) as his capital in place of the ancient traditional capital of Aššur (Ashur), 30 km (19 mi) from present-day Mosul.[citation needed]

Thereafter, successive Assyrian emperor-monarchs, such as Shalmaneser III, Adad-nirari III, Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V and Sargon II, continued to expand the city. Around 700 BC, King Sennacherib made Nineveh Assyria's new capital. Immense building work was undertaken, and Nineveh eclipsed Babylon, Kalhu and Aššur in size and importance, making it the largest city in the world. A number of scholars believe the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were in fact at Nineveh.[13]

The mound of Kuyunjik in Mosul is the site of the palaces of King Sennacherib, and his successors Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal, (who established the Library of Ashurbanipal), Ashur-etil-ilani, Sin-shumu-lishir and Sin-shar-ishkun. The Assyrian Empire began to unravel in 626 BC, being consumed by a decade of brutal internal civil wars, greatly weakening it. A war-ravaged Assyria was attacked in 616 BC by a vast coalition of its former subjects, most notably their Babylonian relations from southern Mesopotamia, together with the Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Cimmerians, and Sagartians. Nineveh fell after a siege and bitter house to house fighting in 612 BC during the reign of Sin-shar-ishkun, who was killed defending his capital. His successor, Ashur-uballit II, fought his way out of Nineveh and formed a new Assyrian capital at Harran (now in southeastern Turkey).[citation needed]

Mosul (then the Assyrian town of Mepsila, founded by the former inhabitants out of the ruins of their former capital) later succeeded Nineveh as the Tigris bridgehead of the road that linked Assyria and Anatolia with the short-lived Median Empire and succeeding Achaemenid Empire (546–332 BC), where it was a part of the geopolitical province of Athura (Assyria), where the region, and Assyria in general, saw a significant economic revival.[citation needed]

Mosul became part of the Seleucid Empire after Alexander's conquests in 332 BC. While little is known of the city from the Hellenistic period, Mosul likely belonged to the Seleucid satrapy of Syria, the Greek term for Assyria ("Syria" originally meaning Assyria rather than the modern nation of Syria), which the Parthian Empire conquered circa 150 BC.[citation needed]

Mosul changed hands once again with the rise of the Sasanian Empire in 225 and became a part of the Sasanian province of Asōristān. Christianity was present among the indigenous Assyrian people in Mosul as early as the 1st century, although the ancient Mesopotamian religion remained strong until the 4th century. It became an episcopal seat of the Assyrian Church of the East in the 6th century.[citation needed]

In 637 (other sources say 641), during the period of the Caliph Umar, Mosul was annexed to the Rashidun Caliphate by Utba ibn Farqad al-Sulami during the early Arab Muslim invasions and conquests, after which Assyria dissolved as a geopolitical entity.[citation needed]

9th century to 1535[edit]

A Persian miniature depicting the siege of Mosul in 1261–63 from: Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, Jami' al-tawarikh, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

In the late 9th century the Turkish dynasts Ishaq ibn Kundaj and his son Muhammad seized control over Mosul, but in 893 Mosul came once again under the direct control of the Abbasid Caliphate. In the early 10th century Mosul came under the control of the native Arab Hamdanid dynasty. From Mosul, the Hamdanids under Abdallah ibn Hamdan and his son Nasir al-Dawla expanded their control over Upper Mesopotamia for several decades, first as governors of the Abbassids and later as de facto independent rulers. A century later they were supplanted by the Uqaylid dynasty. Ibn Hawqal, who visited Mosul in 968, described it as a beautiful town inhabited mainly by Kurds.[14]

Mosul was conquered by the Seljuq Empire in the 11th century. After a period under semi-independent atabeg such as Mawdud, in 1127 it became the centre of power of the Zengid dynasty. Saladin besieged the city unsuccessfully in 1182 but gained control of it in 1186. In the 13th century it was captured by the Mongols led by Hulagu Khan, but was spared the usual destruction since its governor, Badr al-Din Luʾluʾ, helped the Khan in his following campaigns in Syria.

After the Mongol defeat in the Battle of Ain Jalut against the Mamluks, Badr al-Din's son sided with the latter; this led to the city's destruction. It later regained some importance but never recovered its original splendor. Mosul was thenceforth ruled by the Mongol Ilkhanate and Jalairid Sultanate and escaped Timur's destructiveness.

In 1165, Benjamin of Tudela passed through Mosul; he wrote that he found a small Jewish community estimated at 7,000 people in Mosul, led by Rabbi Zakkai, presumably connected to the Davidic line. In 1288–89, the Exilarch was in Mosul and signed a supporting paper for Maimonides.[15][16] In the early 16th century, Mosul was under the Turkmen federation of the Ağ Qoyunlu, but in 1508 it was conquered by the Safavid dynasty of Iran.

Ottoman period[edit]

Conquest of Mosul (Nineveh) by Mustafa Pasha in 1631, a Turkish soldier in the foreground holding a severed head. L., C. (Stecher) 1631 -1650

What started as irregular attacks in 1517 were finalized in 1538, when Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent added Mosul to his empire by capturing it from his archrival, Safavid Persia.[17] Thenceforth Mosul was governed by a pasha. Mosul was celebrated for its line of walls, comprising seven gates with large towers, a renowned hospital (maristan) and a covered market (qaysariyya), and its fabrics and flourishing trades.

Mesopotamia had been acquired by the Ottoman Empire in 1555 by the Peace of Amasya, but until the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639 Ottoman control over Mesopotamia was not decisive.[18] After the Peace of Amasya, the Safavids recaptured most of Mesopotamia one more time during the reign of king Abbas I (r. 1588–1629). Among the newly appointed Safavid governors of Mesopotamia during those years was Qasem Sultan Afshar, who was appointed governor of Mosul in 1622.[19][20] Before 1638, the Ottomans considered Mosul "still a mere fortress, important for its strategic position as an offensive platform for Ottoman campaigns into Iraq, as well as a defensive stronghold and staging post guarding the approaches to Anatolia and to the Syrian coast. Then, with the Ottoman reconquest of Baghdad (1638), the liwa of Mosul became an independent wilaya."[21]: 202 

Despite being a part of the Ottoman Empire, during the four centuries of Ottoman rule Mosul was considered "the most independent district" within the Middle East, following the Roman model of indirect rule through local notables.[22]: 203–204  "Mosuli culture developed less along Ottoman–Turkish lines than along Iraqi–Arab lines; and Turkish, the official language of the State, was certainly not the dominant language in the province."[21]: 203 

In line with its status as a politically stable trade route between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, Mosul developed considerably during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Like the development of the Mamluk dynasty in Baghdad, during this time "the Jalili family was establishing itself as the undisputed master of Mosul" and "helping to connect Mosul with a pre-Ottoman, pre-Turcoman, pre-Mongol, Arab cultural heritage that was to put the town on its way to recapturing some of the prestige and prominence it had enjoyed under the golden reign of Badr ad-Din Lu’lu’."[21]: 203 

Along with the al-Umari and Tasin al-Mufti families, the Jalilis formed an "urban-based small and medium gentry and a new landed elite", which proceeded to displace the control of previous rural tribes.[23] Such families establish themselves through private enterprise, solidifying their influence and assets through rents on land and taxes on manufacturing.

As well as by elected officials, Mosul's social architecture was highly influenced by the Dominican fathers who arrived in Mosul in 1750, sent by Pope Benedict XIV (Mosul had a large Christian population, predominantly indigenous Assyrians).[24] In 1873 they were followed by the Dominican nuns, who established schools, health clinics, a printing press, an orphanage, and workshops to teach girls sewing and embroidery.[25] A congregation of Dominican sisters founded in the 19th century still had its motherhouse in Mosul in the early 21st century. Over 120 Assyrian Iraqi Sisters belonged to this congregation.[24]

In the 19th century the Ottoman government started to reclaim central control over its outlying provinces. Their aim was to "restore Ottoman law, and rejuvenate the military" and to revive "a secure tax base for the government".[26]: 24–26  In order to reestablish rule, in 1834 the sultan abolished public elections for governor, and began "neutraliz[ing] local families such as the Jalilis and their class"[26]: 28–29  and appointing new, non-Maslawi governors directly. In line with its reintegration within central government rule, Mosul was required to conform to new Ottoman reform legislation, including the standardization of tariff rates, the consolidation of internal taxes and the integration of the administrative apparatus with the central government.[26]: 26 

This process started in 1834 with the appointment of Bayraktar Mehmet Pasha, who was to rule Mosul for the next four years. After his reign, the Ottoman government (wishing still to restrain the influence of powerful local families) appointed a series of governors in rapid succession, ruling "for only a brief period before being sent somewhere else to govern, making it impossible for any of them to achieve a substantial local power base."[26]: 29  Mosul's importance as a trading center declined after the opening of the Suez Canal, which enabled goods to travel to and from India by sea rather than by land through Mosul.

A coffee house in Mosul, 1914.

Mosul was the capital of Mosul Vilayet, one of the three vilayets (provinces) of Ottoman Iraq, with a brief break in 1623, when Persia seized the city.

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria against the British Empire, France and the Russian Empire. In northern Mesopotamia, northern Syria and southeast Turkey the Ottomans held the armed support of the Kurds, Turcomans, Circassians and some Arab groups, while the British and Russians were militarily supported by the Assyrians and Armenians (particularly in the wake of the Armenian genocide and Assyrian genocide), and some Arab groups. The Ottomans were defeated, and in 1918 the British occupied Mosul and the whole of Iraq.

1918 to 1990s[edit]

At the end of World War I in October 1918, after the Armistice of Mudros, British forces occupied Mosul. After the war, the city and surrounding area became part of the British-occupied Iraq (1918–1920) and then Mandatory Iraq (1920–1932). This mandate was contested by Turkey, which continued to claim the area on the grounds that it was under Ottoman control during the signature of the Armistice.

In the Treaty of Lausanne, the dispute over Mosul was left for future resolution by the League of Nations. In 1926, Iraq's possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations' brokered agreement between Turkey and Great Britain. Former Ottoman Mosul Vilayet became the Nineveh Governorate of Iraq, but Mosul remained the provincial capital.

Mosul in 1932. The leaning minaret of Great Mosque of al-Nuri gave the city its nickname "the hunchback" (الحدباء al-Ḥadbāˈ)

Mosul's fortunes revived with the discovery of oil in the area, from the late 1920s onward. It became a nexus for the movement of oil via truck and pipeline to Turkey and Syria. Qyuarrah Refinery was built within about an hour's drive from the city and was used to process tar for road-building projects. It was damaged but not destroyed during the Iran–Iraq War.

The opening of the University of Mosul in 1967 enabled the education of many in the city and surrounding area.

Mosul, 1968
Iraqi police, U.S. Soldiers patrol neighborhood in Mosul, March 19, 2007

After the 1991 uprisings by the Kurds, Mosul did not fall within the Kurdish-ruled area, but was included in the northern no-fly zone imposed and patrolled by the United States and Britain between 1991 and 2003.

Although this prevented Saddam's forces from mounting large-scale military operations again in the region, it did not stop his regime from implementing a steady policy of "Arabisation" by which the demography of some areas of Nineveh Governorate were gradually changed. Despite this program, Mosul and its surrounding towns and villages remained home to a mixture of Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Shabaks, a few Jews, and isolated populations of Yazidis, Mandeans, Kawliya and Circassians.

Saddam was able to garrison portions of the 5th Army within Mosul, had Mosul International Airport under military control, and recruited heavily from Mosul for his military's officer corps. This may have been because most of the Iraqi Army officers and generals were from Mosul long before the Saddam regime.

2003 American invasion[edit]

Saddam Hussein's sons Qusay and Uday were killed in a gun battle in Mosul on July 22, 2003.

When the 2003 invasion of Iraq was being planned, the United States had originally intended to base troops in Turkey and mount a thrust into northern Iraq to capture Mosul, but the Turkish parliament refused to grant permission for the operation. When the Iraq War broke out in March 2003, U.S. military activity in the area was confined to strategic bombing with airdropped special forces in the vicinity. Mosul fell on 11 April 2003, when the Iraqi Army 5th Corps, loyal to Saddam, abandoned the city and surrendered two days after the fall of Baghdad. U.S. Army Special Forces with Kurdish fighters quickly took civil control of the city. Thereafter began widespread looting before an agreement was reached to cede overall control to U.S. forces.

On 22 July 2003, Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein, were killed in a gun battle with Coalition forces in Mosul after a failed attempt at their capture.[27] Mosul also served as the operational base for the US Army's 101st Airborne Division during the occupational phase of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. During its tenure, the 101st Airborne Division was able to extensively survey the city and, advised by the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion, non-governmental organizations, and the people of Mosul, began reconstruction work by employing the people of Mosul in security, electricity, local governance, drinking water, wastewater, trash disposal, roads, bridges, and environmental concerns.[28]

Other U.S. Army units to have occupied the city include the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 172nd Stryker Brigade, the 3rd Brigade-2nd Infantry Division, 18th Engineer Brigade (Combat), Alpha Company 14th Engineer Battalion-555th Combat Engineer Brigade, 1st Brigade-25th Infantry Division, the 511th Military Police Company, the 812th Military Police Company and company-size units from Reserve components, an element of the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade, and the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, which covered the areas north of the Green Line.[clarification needed] The 67th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from January 2004 to January 2005, running split based operations in Mosul and Tikrit. The Task Force (TF) 67 Headquarters and Company B operated out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Diamondback (Mosul), and Company A operating out of FOB Speicher (Tikrit).[29]

On 24 June 2004, a coordinated series of car bombs killed 62 people, many of them policemen.

On 21 December 2004, 14 U.S. soldiers, four American employees of Halliburton, and four Iraqi soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on a dining hall at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Marez next to the main U.S. military airfield at Mosul. The Pentagon reported that 72 other personnel were injured in the attack, carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest and the uniform of the Iraqi security services. The Islamist group Army of Ansar al-Sunna (partly evolved from Ansar al-Islam) took responsibility for the attack in an online statement.

In December 2007, Iraq reopened Mosul International Airport. An Iraqi Airways flight carried 152 Hajj pilgrims to Baghdad, the first commercial flight since U.S. forces declared a no-fly zone in 1993, though further commercial flight remained prohibited.[30] On 23 January 2008, an explosion in an apartment building killed 36 people. The next day, a suicide bomber dressed as a police officer assassinated the local police chief, Brigadier General Salah Mohammed al-Jubouri, the director of police for Nineveh province, as he toured the site of the blast.[31]

In May 2008, US-backed Iraqi Army Forces led by Major General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the commander of military operations in Mosul, launched a military offensive of the Ninawa campaign in hopes of bringing stability and security to the city.[32] The representatives of Mosul in the Iraqi Parliament, the intellectuals of the city, and other concerned humanitarian groups agreed on the pressing need for a solution to the city's unbearable conditions, but still believed the solution was political and administrative. They also questioned whether such a large-scale military offensive would spare the lives of innocent people.[33]

All these factors deprived the city of its historical, scientific and intellectual foundations between 2003 and 2008, when many scientists, professors, academics, doctors, health professionals, engineers, lawyers, journalists, religious clergy (both Muslim and Christian), historians, as well as professionals and artists, were either killed or forced to leave the city under the threat of being shot, exactly as happened elsewhere in Iraq in those years.[34][35][36][37]

Christian exodus[edit]

In 2008, many Assyrian Christians (about 12,000) fled the city, following a wave of murders and threats against their community. The murder of a dozen Assyrians, threats that others would be murdered unless they converted to Islam, and the destruction of their houses sparked a rapid exodus of the Christian population. Some fled to Syria and Turkey; others were given shelter in churches and monasteries. Accusations were exchanged between Sunni fundamentalists and some Kurdish groups of being behind this new exodus. Some claims linked it to the provincial elections of January 2009, and the related Assyrian Christians' demands for broader representation in the provincial councils.[38][39]

Mosul was attacked on 4 June 2014. After six days of fighting, on 10 June the Islamic State took over the city during the June 2014 Northern Iraq offensive.[40][41][42] By August, the city's new ISIL administration was dysfunctional, with frequent power cuts, a tainted water supply, collapse of infrastructure, and failing health care.[43]

Government by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)[edit]

Humvee down after an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control of Mosul, after the Iraqi troops stationed there fled.[44][45] Troop shortages and infighting among top officers and Iraqi political leaders played into ISIL's hands and fueled panic that led to the city's abandonment.[46] Kurdish intelligence had been warned by a reliable source in early 2014 that ISIL would attack Mosul, and ex-Baathists had informed the U.S. and the UK,[47] but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Defence Minister turned down repeated offers of help from the Peshmerga. Half a million people escaped on foot or by car during the next two days.[48]

ISIL acquired three divisions' worth of up-to-date American arms and munitions—including M1129 Stryker 120-mm mortars and at least 700 armoured Humvee vehicles from the then fleeing, or since massacred, Iraqi Army.[49] Many residents initially welcomed ISIL,[50] and according to a member of the UK's Defence Select Committee, Mosul "fell because the people living there were fed up with the sectarianism of the Shia-dominated Iraqi government."[49]

Iraqi soldiers drive past an ISIL sign in eastern Mosul, January 2017.

On 21 January 2015, the U.S. began coordinating airstrikes with a Kurdish-launched offensive, to help them begin the planned operation to retake Mosul.[51]

Once home to at least 70,000 Assyrian Christians, there were possibly none left in Mosul after ISIL took over; any who remained were forced to pay a tax for remaining Christian and lived under a constant threat of violence.[52][53] The indigenous Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamian ancestry, whose history in the region dates back over 5,000 years, saw their churches and monasteries vandalized and burned down,[54] their ancient Assyrian heritage sites dating to the Iron Age destroyed, and their homes and possessions seized by ISIL.[55] They also faced ultimatums to either convert to Islam, leave their ancient homelands, or be murdered.[55][56]

According to western and pro-Iraqi government press, Mosul residents were de facto prisoners,[57] forbidden to leave the city unless they left ISIL a significant collateral of family members, personal wealth and property. They could then leave after paying a significant "departure tax"[58] for a three-day pass (for a higher fee they could surrender their home, pay the fee and leave for good) and if those with a three-day pass failed to return within that time, their assets would be seized and their family killed.[59]

Most female Yazidis from Mosul and the greater Mosul region (Nineveh) were imprisoned and occasionally killed for resistance[60] to being sold as sex slaves.[61] ISIL killed or expelled most minority groups and forcibly converted some Yazidi males and Christians to Islam. Women were required to cover their bodies from head to foot in a strict variant of Sharia rule, and men were required to fully grow their beards and hair in line with ISIL edicts. Life in Mosul was one of violent oppression, where people suspected of activism against the occupiers, resistance activities, homosexuality, promiscuity or adultery were brutally and summarily tortured and murdered.[62]

The ISIL governor of Mosul, Alian Natiq Mabroush, was killed on 18 March 2016, along with ten other jihadist leaders, in a U.S. airstrike.[63]

During the occupation, residents fought back against ISIL. In one notable incident, they killed five ISIL militants and destroyed two of their vehicles.[64]

While ISIL ruled Mosul with an extreme monopolization of violence and committed many acts of terror, some scholars argue that it also had a highly efficient bureaucratic government that ran a highly functioning state within Mosul's borders via sophisticated diwans (governing bodies).[65]


Women were required to be accompanied by a male guardian[48][66] and wear clothing that covered their body completely, including gloves for the hands, a niqab for the head, and khimar for the full coverage of the body from shoulders to feet.[62] Failure to follow the regulations was punished by fines or male relatives being given 40 or more lashes.[67]

According to Canadian-based NGO the RINJ Foundation, which operates medical clinics in Mosul,[68] rape cases in the city prove a pattern of genocide, and will lead to a conviction of genocide against the ISIL in the International Criminal Court.[69][70]

In August 2015, ISIL was reported to be selling captured women and girls to sex slave traders.[71]

Persecution of religious and ethnic minorities and destruction of cultural sites[edit]

ISIL issued an edict expelling (in effect ethnically cleansing) the remaining predominantly ethnic Assyrian and Armenian Christian Mosul citizens after they refused to attend a meeting to discuss their future status. According to Duraid Hikmat, an expert on minority relationships and resident of Mosul, the Christians were afraid to attend.[72] Emboldened ISIL authorities systematically destroyed and vandalized Abrahamic cultural artifacts, such as the cross from St. Ephrem's Cathedral, the tomb of Jonah, and a statue of the Virgin Mary. ISIL militants destroyed and pillaged the Tomb of Seth. Artifacts from the tomb were removed to an unknown location.[73]

Students from Muslim Shia and Sufi minorities were also abducted.[74]

According to a UN report, ISIL forces persecuted ethnic groups in and near Mosul. The Assyrians, Kurds, Armenians, Yazidis, Turcoman, Mandeans, Kawliya and Shabaks were victims of unprovoked, religiously motivated murders, assaults, theft, kidnappings, and the destruction of their cultural sites.[72]

  • Mosque of the Prophet Yunus or Younis (Jonah): On one of the two most prominent mounds of Nineveh ruins, used to rise the Mosque (an Assyrian Church year[clarification needed]) of Prophet Younis "Biblical Jonah". Jonah (Yonan), the son of Amittai, from the 8th century BC, is believed to be buried here, where King Esarhaddon of Assyria once built a palace. It was one of Mosul's most important mosques, and one of the few historic mosques on the east side of the city. On 24 July 2014, the building was destroyed by explosives set by ISIL forces.[75]
  • Mosque of the Prophet Jerjis (Georges): The mosque is believed to be the burial place of Prophet Jerjis. Built of marble with shen reliefs and last renovated in 1393, it was mentioned by the explorer Ibn Jubair in the 12th century and is believed to include the tomb of Al-Hur bin Yousif.
  • Mashad Yahya Abul Kassem: Built in the 13th century, it was on the right bank of the Tigris and known for its conical dome, decorative brickwork and calligraphy engraved in Mosul blue marble.
  • Mosul library: Including the Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library. Among the 112,709 books and manuscripts thought lost are a collection of Iraqi newspapers dating from the early 20th century, as well as maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period; some were registered on a UNESCO rarities list. The library was ransacked and destroyed by explosives on 25 February 2015.[76]
  • Mosul Museum and Nergal Gate: Statues and artifacts that date from the Assyrian and Akkadian empires, including artefacts from sites including the Assyrian cities of Nineveh, Ashur, Arrapha, Dur-Sharrukin and Kalhu (Nimrud) and the Neo-Assyrian site of Hatra.[77][78] Their plans for extraction were accelerated when ISIL scheduled the destruction of the al-Ḥadbā[79]
  • Turkish diplomats and consular staff were detained for over 100 days.[80]

Human rights[edit]

Scores of people were executed without fair trial.[81][82] Civilians in Mosul were not permitted to leave ISIL-controlled areas. ISIL executed several civilians who tried to flee Mosul.[83]

Armed opposition[edit]

Iraqi army convoy in Mosul, 17 November 2016

The urban guerrilla warfare groups were called the Nabi Yunus Brigade after the Nabi Yunus mosque, or the Kataeb al-Mosul (Mosul Brigade).[84] The brigade claimed to have killed ISIL members with sniper fire.[85] In the countryside around Mosul, Kurdish and Assyrian militia also took up arms to resist ISIL oppression, and successfully repelled ISIL attacks on Kurdish and Assyrian towns and villages.[86][87]

Battle of Mosul (2016–2017)[edit]

After more than two years of ISIL occupation of Mosul, Iraqi, Kurdish, American and French forces launched a joint offensive to recapture it on 16 October 2016.[88][89] The battle for Mosul was considered key in the military intervention against ISIL.[90] Turkish warplanes participated in the coalition strikes on Mosul amid the escalating dispute between Baghdad and Ankara over the Turkish presence in Bashiqa.[91] A military offensive to retake the city was the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the 2003 invasion by U.S. and coalition forces[92] On 9 July 2017, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi arrived in preparation to announce the full liberation and reclamation of Mosul after three years of ISIL control.[93] A formal declaration was made on the next day.[94] The battle continued for another couple of weeks in the Old City before Iraqi forces regained full control of Mosul on 21 July 2017.[95][96]


A souk (traditional market) in Mosul, 1932

According to Salahuddin Khuda Bakhsh, the Arab geographer Ibn Hawqal was at Mosul in 358 (969 CE). He called it a "fine town with excellent markets, surrounded by fertile districts of which the most celebrated was that round Nineveh where the prophet Jonah was buried. In the 4th [10th] century the population consisted chiefly of Kurds, and the numerous districts round Mosul, occupying all Diyir Rabi'ah, are carefully enumerated by Ibn Hawkal."[97]

In 1813, James Playfair, the author of the book A System of Geography: Ancient and Modern wrote, "Mosul Is chiefly peopled by Curds [Kurds],[98] a sober and industrious race". But Mosul has had various ethnic groups during its history. In 1923, half of its population was Kurd.[99] In the 20th century, Mosul was indicative of Iraq's mingling ethnic and religious cultures. There was a Sunni Arab majority in urban areas, such as downtown Mosul west of the Tigris; across the Tigris and further north in the suburban areas, thousands of Assyrians, Kurds, Turkmens, Shabaks, Yazidis, Armenians and Mandeans made up the rest of Mosul's population.[100] Shabaks were concentrated on the city's eastern outskirts.


Celebration at the Syriac Orthodox Monastery in Mosul, early 20th century

Mosul has a predominantly Sunni population. This city had an ancient Jewish population. Like their counterparts elsewhere in Iraq, most were forced out in 1950–51. Most Iraqi Jews have moved to Israel, and some to the United States.[101] In 2003, during the Iraq War, a rabbi in the American army found an abandoned, dilapidated synagogue in Mosul dating to the 13th century.[102][103]

During ISIL's occupation, religious minorities were targeted to convert to Islam, pay tribute (jizya) money, leave, or be killed.[104] The persecution of Christians in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plains removed a Christian community that had been present in the region since the 1st century.[105]


View of the Tigris river in Mosul

The Mosul Dam was built in the 1980s to supply Mosul with hydroelectricity and water. Despite this, water supply cuts are still common.[106]

Five bridges cross the Tigris in Mosul, known from north to south as:[107]

  • Al Shohada Bridge (or "Third Bridge")
  • Fifth Bridge
  • Old Bridge (or "Iron Bridge", or "First Bridge")
  • Al Huriya Bridge (literally "Freedom Bridge", also known as "Second Bridge")
  • Fourth Bridge

During the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) between ISIL and the Iraqi Army supported by an international coalition, two bridges were 'damaged' by coalition airstrikes in October 2016, two others in November, and the Old Bridge was 'disabled' in early December.[107] According to the BBC, in late December the bridges were targeted to disrupt the resupply of ISIL forces in East Mosul from West Mosul.[107] In January 2017, CNN reported that ISIL itself had 'destroyed' all bridges to slow the Iraqi ground troops' advance, citing Iraqi commander Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah.[108]

During the last stages of the battle to retake Mosul, Lise Grande stated that per an initial assessment, basic infrastructure repair would cost over 1 billion USD. She stated that while stabilization in east Mosul could be achieved in two months, in some districts of Mosul it might take years, with six out of 44 districts almost completely destroyed. Every district of Mosul received light or moderate damage.[109] Per the United Nations, 15 of the 54 residential districts in the western half of Mosul were heavily damaged while at least 23 were moderately damaged.[110]

Mosul is served by Mosul International Airport.


Mosul stands 223 meters above sea level in the Upper Mesopotamia region of the Middle East. To the south west of Mosul is the Syrian Desert and to the East is the Zagros Mountains.


Mosul has a hot semi-arid climate (BSh), verging on the Mediterranean climate (Csa), with extremely hot, prolonged, dry summers, brief and mild autumn and spring, and moderately wet, relatively cool winters.

Climate data for Mosul
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.1
Average high °C (°F) 12.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 7.3
Average low °C (°F) 2.2
Record low °C (°F) −17.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 62.1
Average precipitation days 11 11 12 9 6 0 0 0 0 5 7 10 71
Mean monthly sunshine hours 158 165 192 210 310 363 384 369 321 267 189 155 3,083
Source 1: World Meteorological Organisation (UN)[111]
Source 2: Weatherbase (extremes only)[112]

Historical and religious buildings[edit]

Mosul is rich in old historical places and ancient buildings: mosques, castles, churches, monasteries, and schools, many of which have architectural features and decorative work of significance. The town centre is dominated by a maze of streets and 19th-century houses. There are old houses of beauty. The markets are particularly interesting for the mixture of people who jostle there: Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Iraqi Jews, Kurdish Jews, Iraqi Turkmens, Armenians, Yazidi, Mandeans, Romani and Shabaks.

The Mosul Museum contains many finds from the ancient sites of the old Assyrian capital cities Nineveh and Nimrud. It is a beautiful old building, around a courtyard and with a façade of Mosul marble containing displays of Mosul life depicted in tableau[clarification needed] form. On February 26, 2015, ISIL militants destroyed the museum's ancient Assyrian artifacts.

The English writer Agatha Christie lived in Mosul while her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archaeologist, was involved in the excavation in Nimrud.[113]

Mosques and shrines[edit]

  • Umayyad Mosque: The first ever in the city, built in 640 AD by Utba bin Farqad Al-Salami after he conquered Mosul in the reign of Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab. The only original part extant to recent times was the remarkably elaborate brickwork 52m high minaret that leans like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, called Al-Hadba (The Humped). It was largely destroyed during the Battle of Mosul[which?].
  • The Great (Nuriddin) Mosque: Built by Nuriddin Zangi in 1172 AD next door to the Umayyad Mosque. Ibn Battuta (the great Moroccan traveller) found a marble fountain there and a mihrab (the niche that indicates the direction of Mecca) with a Kufic inscription. It was destroyed during the Battle of Mosul[which?].
  • Mujahidi Mosque: The mosque dates back to 12th century AD, and is distinguished for its shen[clarification needed] dome and elaborately wrought mihrab.
  • Prophet Younis Mosque and Shrine: Located east of the city, and included the tomb of Prophet Younis (Jonah), dating back to the 8th century BC, with a tooth of the whale that swallowed and later released him. It was completely demolished by IS in July 2014.[114]
  • Prophet Jirjis Mosque and Shrine: The late 14th century mosque and shrine honoring Prophet Jirjis (George) was built over the Quraysh cemetery. It was destroyed by IS in July 2014.[115]
  • Prophet Daniel Shrine: A Tomb attributed to Prophet Daniel was destroyed by IS in July 2014.[116][117]
  • Hamou Qado (Hema Kado) Mosque: An Ottoman-era mosque in the central Maydan area built in 1881, and officially named Mosque of Abdulla Ibn Chalabi Ibn Abdul-Qadi.[118] It was destroyed by IS in March 2015 because it contained a tomb that was revered and visited by local Muslims on Thursdays and Fridays.[119]

Churches and monasteries[edit]

Mosul had the highest proportion of Assyrian Christians of all the Iraqi cities outside of the Kurdish region, and contains several interesting old churches, some of which originally date back to the early centuries of Christianity. Its ancient Assyrian churches are often hidden and their entrances in thick walls are not easy to find. Some of them have suffered from overmuch restoration.

  • Shamoun Al-Safa (St. Peter, Mar Petros): This church dates from the 13th century is and named after Shamoun Al-Safa or St. Peter (Mar Petros in Assyrian Aramaic). Earlier it had the name of the two Apostles, Peter and Paul, and was inhabited by the nuns of the Sacred Hearts.
  • Church of St. Thomas (Mar Touma in Assyrian Aramaic): One of the oldest historical churches, named after St. Thomas the Apostle who preached the Gospel in the East, including India. The exact time of its foundation is unknown, but it was before 770 AD, since Al-Mahdi, the Abbasid Caliph, is mentioned as listening to a grievance concerning this church on his trip to Mosul.
  • Mar Petion Church: Mar Petion, educated by his cousin in a monastery, was martyred in 446 AD. It is the first Chaldean Catholic church in Mosul, after the union of many Assyrians with Rome in the 17th century. It dates back to the 10th century, and lies 3 m below street level. This church suffered destruction, and it has been reconstructed many times. A hall was built on one of its three parts in 1942. As a result, most of its artistic features have been severely damaged.
  • Ancient Tahira Church (The Immaculate): Near Bash Tapia, considered one of the most ancient churches in Mosul. No evidence helps to determine its exact area. It could be either the remnants of the church of the Upper Monastery or the ruined Mar Zena Church. Al-Tahira Church dates back to the 7th century, and it lies 3 m below street level. Reconstructed last in 1743.
  • Al-Tahera Church: Syriac Catholic Church completed in 1862.
  • Mar Hudeni Church: It was named after Mar Ahudemmeh (Hudeni) Maphrian of Tikrit who was martyred in 575 AD. Mar Hudeni is an old church of the Tikritans in Mosul. It dates back to the 10th century, lies 7 m below street level and was first reconstructed in 1970. People can get mineral water from the well in its yard. The chain, fixed in the wall, is thought to cure epileptics.
  • St. George's Monastery (Mar Gurguis): One of the oldest churches in Mosul, named after St. George, located to the north of Mosul, was probably built late in the 17th century. Pilgrims from different parts of the North[clarification needed] visit it yearly in the spring, when many people also go out to its whereabouts on holiday.[clarification needed] It is about 6 m below street level. A modern church was built over the old one in 1931, abolishing much of its archeological significance. The only monuments left are a marble door-frame decorated with a carved Estrangelo (Syriac) inscription, and two niches, which date back to the 13th or 14th century.
  • Mar Matte: This famous monastery is situated about 20 km (12 mi) east of Mosul on the top of a high mountain (Mount Maqloub). It was built by Mar Matte, a monk who fled with several other monks in 362 AD from the Monastery of Zuknin near the City of Amid (Diyarbakir) in the southern part of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the north of Iraq during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361–363 AD). It has a precious library containing Syrianic scriptures.
  • Monastery of Mar Behnam: Also called Deir Al-Jubb (The Cistern Monastery) and built in the 12th or 13th century, it lies in the Nineveh Plain near Nimrud about 32 km (20 mi) southwest of Mosul. The monastery, a great fort-like building, rises next to the tomb of Mar Behnam, a prince who was killed by the Sassanians, perhaps during the 4th century AD. A legend made him a son of an Assyrian king.
  • St. Elijah's Monastery (Dair Mar Elia): Dating from the 6th century, it was the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, until its destruction by IS in January 2016.[120][121]

Other Christian historical buildings:

  • The Roman Catholic Church (built by the Dominican Fathers in Nineveh Street in 1893)
  • Mar Michael
  • Mar Elias
  • Mar Oraha
  • Rabban Hormizd Monastery, the monastery of Notre-Dame des Semences, near the Assyrian town of Alqosh

Other sites[edit]

  • Bash Tapia Castle: A ruined castle rising high over the Tigris, which was one of the few remnants of Mosul's old walls until it was blown up by IS in 2015.
  • Qara Serai (The Black Palace): The remnants of the 13th-century palace of Sultan Badruddin Lu'lu'.



The so-called Mosul School of Painting refers to a style of miniature painting that developed in northern Iraq in the late 12th to early 13th century under the patronage of the Zangid dynasty (1127–1222). In technique and style the Mosul school was similar to the painting of the Seljuq Turks, who controlled Iraq at that time, but the Mosul artists had a sharper sense of realism based on the subject matter and degree of detail in the painting rather than on representation in three dimensions, which did not occur. Most of the Mosul iconography was Seljuq—for example, the use of figures seated cross-legged in a frontal position. Certain symbolic elements, however, such as the crescent and serpents, were derived from the classical Mesopotamian repertory.

Most Mosul paintings were manuscript illustrations—mainly scientific works, animal books, and lyric poetry. A frontispiece painting, now held in the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, dating from a late 12th century copy of Galen's medical treatise, the Kitab al-diriyak ("Book of Antidotes"), is a good example of the earlier work of the Mosul school. It depicts four figures surrounding a central, seated figure who holds a crescent-shaped halo. The painting is in a variety of whole hues; reds, blues, greens, and gold. The Küfic lettering is blue. The total effect is best described as majestic.

Another mid-13th century frontispiece held in the Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, to another copy of the same text suggests the quality of later Mosul painting. There is realism in its depiction of the preparation of a ruler's meal and of horsemen engaged in various activities, and the painting is as many hued as that of the early Mosul school, yet it is somehow less spirited. The composition is more elaborate but less successful. By this time the Baghdad school, which combined the styles of the Syrian and early Mosul schools, had begun to dominate. With the invasion of the Mongols in the mid-13th century the Mosul school came to an end, but its achievements were influential in both the Mamluk and the Mongol schools of miniature painting.


Mosul has several universities and colleges. These include the University of Mosul, which is the largest university in Mosul,[122] Ninevah University, Al-Hadbaa University College, and the Northern Technical University.

Mosul also has multiple highschools some of which are coeducational while others are gender segregated. These include but are not limited to:

  • Al-Hafsah School[123]
  • Al-Haj Secondary School for Girls[124]
  • Kourtoba High School for Girls
  • Al-Mouhobeen Secondary School for Boys and Girls
  • Al-Mustaqbal High School for Boys
  • Al-Mutamaizat High School for Girls
  • Al-Mutamaizeen High School for Boys
  • Al-Resalah Al-Islamia (Al-Resalah) High School for Boys
  • Al-Sharqiya High School for Boys


The city has one football team capable of competing in the top-flight of Iraqi football – Mosul FC.

Al Mosul University Stadium is the home stadium to Mosul FC and can hold up to 20,000 people.

The University of Mosul contains a College of Physical Education and Sports Science which teaches undergraduate and graduate students and performs research in three scientific departments.[125]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


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  • Nasiri, Ali Naqi; Floor, Willem M. (2008). Titles and Emoluments in Safavid Iran: A Third Manual of Safavid Administration. Mage Publishers. p. 309. ISBN 978-1933823232.
  • Oberling, P. (1984). "AFŠĀR". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. I, Fasc. 6. pp. 582–586. Archived from the original on 2011-04-29.
  • Rothman, E. Nathalie (2015). Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801463129.

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