Urban Memory and Intangible Heritage in Mosul: The Politics of Shrine Reconstruction and Religious Communities

Conference Paper


  • This short chapter is part of a larger project exploring the role of prophet and saint shrines in medieval and early modern Iraq and Turkey. Because the topic and place of study are now intertwined with questions of cultural heritage value and allocation, this chapter focuses on a series of narratives surrounding the destruction and reconstruction of three cultural heritage sites in Mosul and surrounding regions. Although the destruction of ancient archaeological sites and museums has received a great deal of press, medieval and early modern shrines make up the largest portion of what has been destroyed in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, at least three of the prophetic tombs -Daniel, Seth, and Jonah-as well as a large number of Sufi, Shia, Christian and Yazidi shrines have been destroyed. Attacks on these shrines has been aimed at destroying not only artifacts, but the role of these shrines in daily practice. The destruction of these and other multi-unit, multi-functional, and to some extent multi denominational shrines, which make up close to 75% of what has been destroyed, form part of what Géraldine Chatelard has called an ‘assault of diversity’. As she pointed out in a recent UNESCO publication on cultural heritage losses in and around Mosul this area was perhaps the most religious and linguistically diverse region in the Middle East Chatelard not only described this diversity, but pointed out how frequently these various ethnic and linguistic groups came into contact with each other. As she argues, by destroying ‘cultural manifestations and symbols of diversity’, Daesh clearly set out to impose new religious norms’. Their path began with the destruction of shrines associated with prophets, mystics and other holy men and continued by destroying churches, monasteries and cemeteries.
  • Authors


    Presented At Event

  • Holy Places in Islam  Conference
  • Keywords

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Mosul
  • Prophets
  • Shrines