Valentine’s Day on Tuesday returned to the eastern sector of the Iraqi city of Mosul from where the Islamic State group was expelled last month, at least for a group of enthusiastic schoolchildren.
“My feelings for you flow like a river and will flow on for the rest of my life,” young volunteers recited in front of the children at one school as plastic roses, balloons and heart-stickered pens were handed around.
In a celebration of “love for our liberated city,” colored confetti was scattered across the floor and in the children’s hair as they awaited the arrival of a big cream cake.
“This February 14 will be unforgettable,” schoolgirl Manal said.
“I knew there was an event that celebrates love, but this is the first time I’ve had the chance to take part,” said the girl with eyes lined with black kohl, framed by a traditional niqab covering the rest of her face and hair.
Nour, aged 14, was equally enthralled.
“To hold a feast with girls and boys in the same room, with music, simply to have fun, this was unthinkable just a few months ago,” she said.
Organizers of the Mosul-style Valentine’s Day remained on their guard, preventing children from venturing out into the courtyard of the Azzuhur school, whose name means “flowers” in Arabic.
Drones operated by the Islamic State group still overfly parts of eastern Mosul retaken by Iraqi forces.
“DAESH has threatened to attack any schools which reopen. We’re not safe here. They can still reach us from the western bank [of the Tigris River dividing the city] or with suicide bombers,” said Farid, a volunteer of the Nahdat Jeel, using an Arabic-language acronym for the Islamic State.
The Nahdat Jeel group, which is made up of about 300 young men and women aged between 15 and 30, was formed a month ago through contacts on social media. It has set itself the task of cleaning up schools and hospitals, repainting public squares and planting trees.
“We must get rid of all trace of DAESH, whether visible or symbolic,” said Rafal Muzaffar, 26.
The many slogans splattered on the walls to glorify the “caliphate” proclaimed by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a Mosul mosque in 2014 at the start of the group’s two-year rule of the city have almost all disappeared.
“We’re trying to carry out symbolic actions that provide a sharp contrast with what life was like over the past two years,” said Muzaffar, dressed in a long black tunic and yellow scarf.
Last week, the all-Muslim group worked on cleaning up a huge church nicknamed “The Titanic” because of its ship-like shape, “to show that in Mosul our differences are our strength,” she said.
Mohamed Namoq, one of Nahdat Jil’s founders, was jailed and tortured by the Islamic State for almost two months for having recited poems on the radio that the group deemed subversive.
“Whatever the threats we face, nothing can stop us from carrying on and from shouting it out loud and clear, something we should have done long ago,” Namoq added.
Haneen, 17, said that she is also determined to play a role in restoring life to Mosul.
“All young people should take part, not only boys but girls as well,” she said.
As for celebrating Valentine’s Day, that was “magical, because how can you live without love,” she asked, while pointing out shyly that she does not have a boyfriend.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies