Raad Sultan, originally from Mosul, is an Architect and a Faculty member of the School of Architecture at Mosul University, currently a PhD researcher at the University of Plymouth, UK. The more responsibilities people had the more varied scales of violence they were exposed to. Raad’s map illustrates the routes across several parts of the North of Iraq from and to Mosul during ISIS offenses, crossing neighbourhoods and different terrains and landscapes imposed by nature, and soft and hard borders onto cities culminating in the destruction of the main bridge that connected the West to the East of Mosul.
I left Mosul twice, once at the beginning of the ISIS offenses in 2014, but I could not make it, then tried again two months later knowing the dangers around me were closing in. I took the road towards Hawija, I had to walk some of the way when I could not use a car, I then crossed the bridge and by the time I got in a taxi, the bridge was hit with a missile (the main bridge in Mosul over the river Khosr). I then reached my in-laws in Kirkuk, then moved into a one room and then a house and remained there for three years. Throughout my entire stay in Kirkuk, I witnessed so many painful stories by Iraqi students who have been displaced several times during their education. On my way back, I spent hours in the desert.
In the first year, I was myself a Masters student. I had to defend my viva voce in person in Duhok where most academics from the University of Mosul had fled to. I had to go through so many checkpoints to cross from Kirkuk through Erbil and then into Duhok. Then returned back to Kirkuk and took up a management role as part of the University’s mobile site.
As an architect, the material association that I have with the darkest times is the moment when the Hadba’ Minaret (translates to the hunchback minaret) was destroyed by ISIS, I felt the city’s identity was lost then. I feel that most Mosulis felt that they have lost the most precious icon that represents Mosul.
I found a sense of refuge in helping students across the years of violence through their university years. I worked so hard seven days a week over three shifts a day to help as many of them as I could. It was a way for me to keep busy and escape the trauma.