Lingering trauma – map 3

Ali Al-Baroodi, from Mosul, is a photojournalist expert on Mosul, translator and an academic at the Department of Translation, Mosul University. Ali’s map is a homage to home, a home lost and re-found after enduring multiple traumas materially and conceptually during the Battle for Mosul in 2014. The map shows the moment shrapnel entered the window of Ali’s room marking the beginning of multiple traumas over the months of ISIS attacks in Mosul.

Ali recalls:

On the day of the bombing the first house we moved into was my aunt’s house, it was in the same neighbourhood and not that far from my house. But we had that trauma of the day of the bombing. We had to leave. There was a very small room which was only 3 x 3m and we were 16 people living in that room for 5 to 6 days. We were all together, we lost our privacy, we slept on the floor on mattresses. There was only one narrow bed which we left for my injured brother and we used the couch for my old father. When you sleep in a certain position you can never move and when you wake up, your hands and legs are numb. We spent 5 days like this.

Then, when we were evacuated, we were received by my cousin and we stayed in his house for 45 days (in a different neighbourhood). This time we chose a small room, a specific place that is in the middle of the house (like a sitting room) that had no windows out to the streets. Still when there was bombing some of the windows across the rest of the house shattered. Our survival code was to stay in the middle of the house and on the ground floor only.

Then in January 2017, Mosul was liberated from ISIS. My mother wanted to go back to our house straight away but I said we needed to wait for 3 more days or so because even though Mosul was liberated, we needed the Iraqi army to secure the areas that had become safe.

4 days later, I went back to check the house. I had to cross over the rubble of the bridge that was hit over the river Khosr. I came to the house and I could not recognize it. It was not hit directly but ISIS occupied it and in our culture it is a taboo to enter people’s houses without permission. All the windows of the house were broken. All the doors were shattered. I could not see a single thing that had not been messed with. The house needed work. I went back to my mother and said you will have to stay where you are and I will go back to the house and fix it. I will make it liveable. It was the only time when I stayed in the house on my own for 2 months.

Mosul was liberated but rockets and mortars were still hitting parts of the neighbourhoods. I changed where I spent the time inside the house from my bedroom beside the window that was hit to another safer room. I fixed the house with the help of tradesmen to make the house liveable again. The family returned to it, and it was once again a lively place.

After the liberation of Mosul, emotionally we felt safe because we kept saying to ourselves ISIS is gone. But we cannot forget about ISIS atrocities, who knows what ISIS had left behind? Their legacy has continued to occupy our minds for years. We still have neighbourhoods destroyed and you never know what is beneath the rubble. There are bombs probably covered with rubble that have not exploded. Wars are easy to stop and people think that they end at a certain cost, but urban wars in particular, will live with us for generations to come.