On June 21, 2017, as Iraqi forces approached the city of Mosul following years of civil conflict in Iraq, Islamic State militants detonated explosives, destroying the historic and beloved Al-Hadba' Minaret and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri.
Five times a day, a muezzin ascended the spiral stairway and sang the call to prayer from the balcony of al-Hadba'. By the time the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta visited the city in the fourteenth century, the minaret was already leaning noticeably and was known by its nickname, Hunchback, which remained until its destruction.
In the 1940s, as part of a renovation campaign sponsored by the Iraqi Department of Antiquities, the mosque and the madrassa were dismantled and rebuilt according to a new plan. The minaret remained as one of the few original elements of the medieval complex, a landmark of Mosul, towering over the cityscape. So iconic was the minaret that its figure has adorned the Iraqi 10,000-dinar banknote since 2003.
The minaret was first included on the 2010 World Monuments Watch to call attention to worries that the structure needed conservation. A primary concern was having structural engineers analyze the minaret's stability. In 2012, UNESCO and the Governorate of Nineveh agreed to collaborate on a project to study and conserve the al-Hadba’ Minaret. In 2014, the launch of the project was announced, only days before Mosul was captured by the Islamic State.
In October 2017, WMF announced the 2018 Watch, which included the minaret to highlight the devastation to Mosul and other places ravaged by ISIS. No building can ever truly represent the terrible circumstances of armed conflict, but the loss of the minaret was a stark reminder of the difficulties facing Iraq in rebuilding these communities in the liberated areas of the country.
The World Monuments Watch calls attention to cultural heritage sites around the world at risk from the forces of nature or the impact of social, political, and economic change. In the case of al-Hadba', in 2010, the Watch was meant as inspiration to address physical conservation needs. In 2018, it is a cautionary tale of the fragility of places, the history they represent, and the communities that cherish them.
The al-Hadba' Minaret was included on the in the 2018 Watch to bring attention to the special role that culture plays amidst post-conflict reconstruction and social healing.
Calls for the reconstruction of the al-Hadba’ Minaret were launched immediately after its destruction, to serve as an emblem of rebirth of the city and continuity of cultural symbols. The 2018 Watch calls for dialogue to establish a shared vision among all stakeholders, integrating the rebuilding of the mosque and the minaret with the process of social recovery for its community, and ensuring active local participation.