The Women of Mosul

The women of Mosul have faced years of conflict and hardship, yet the resilience of the human spirit is one of the key building-blocks for the return of Mosul

Al-Ghad Radio

Part of the Return to Mosul Exhibition

Nostalgia (2019) by Mona NahlehAl-Ghad Radio

What was it like for women during the ISIS occupation?

Women faced violence and subjugation under the ISIS occupation. Laws were weighted against women: their freedom of expression, thought, and movement.  

ISIS were explicitly committed to the segregation of the sexes, the promotion of a rigid social order premised on control over women’s bodies (including how they behave, interact, and dress).     

The ISIS “manifesto” declared that girls could be married from the age of nine and that women should remain “hidden”. The enslavement of women and girls was used as a recruitment incentive; they were treated as objects and distributed among ISIS fighters as spoils of war.   

A Life without Colour (2019) by Khlaif MahmoudAl-Ghad Radio

A life without colour

The realities of this life for Maslawi women in ISIS-occupied Mosul were harsh and cruel, upheld by a significant and sustained campaign of violence.  

Their freedom was curtailed by ISIS, like the vibrant colours drowned out by peripheral darkness.    

The Fog of Life (2019) by Rizgar Faki AoulaAl-Ghad Radio

Yet even though the lives of women were brutally policed by ISIS, from what they could wear, work they were permitted to carry out, and places they were allowed to go, women remained, bold and strong witnesses to the injustice.   

The Woman (2019) by Lubna Al-TaiAl-Ghad Radio

Amongst the green pastures of hope, these women will help the city to thrive once more...

...supported by the hamsa hand - a universal symbol of protection, happiness, and good fortune.     

Portrait of a Maslawi Woman (2019) by Marwan FathiAl-Ghad Radio

Thus, the denial of their freedom of expression by ISIS control and subjugation could not destroy the beauty and diversity of Maslawi women. Woman, with her strong and direct gaze, is now witness to the rebirth of freedom and liberty.  

The crow perched on the woman’s shoulder is symbolic of the subjugation and control by ISIS of the Maslawi population. The multicoloured palette is joyful and defiant. ISIS banned colourful clothing, prescribing black as the only suitable sartorial colour within the city. The dress is seemingly made of fish scales, this is perhaps a reference to the story of Jonah and the Whale, from Mosul’s Temple of Jonah. The whale has become a symbol of resistance and salvation within Mosul after the temple was destroyed by ISIS in an act of archaeological terrorism in 2014. The woman adopts a provocative stance, with her strong, direct gaze.  Her shock of hair denotes diversity and multitude. There are tribes with flame-red hair across Northern Iraq denoting the great variety and diversity of ethnicities within Mosul before ISIS occupied the city.  

Credits: Story

This work is brought to you by Al-Ghad Radio, in partnership with Nineveh Fine Artists Association.   

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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