A group of around 300 Iraqis recently traveled from south and central Iraq to Mosul to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with their newly liberated compatriots.
In the summer of 2014 the Islamic State drove out Iraqi security forces and seizedcontrol of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in a territorial sweep of much of northern Iraq.
It was in Mosul that the militant group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an Islamic Caliphate spanning Syria and Iraq.
Since then, life for Mosul's residents has been one of fear, oppression, and hardship.
Daily life changed for the worse with the persecution of minorities, food and fuel shortages, and intimidation and harsh punishment.
An effort to retake the city by Iraqi security forces began in October 2016. After eight months of intense battle just a handful of neighborhoods remain under the group's control, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to recently declare the end of the Islamic State.
The Eid in Mosul campaign was organized by a group of Iraqi activists led by Hamid al-Sayed, Ali al-Touki, and Mohammed al-Raji.
Originally an idea to visit old friends who had been trapped under Islamic State rule, the plan turned into a full-blown campaign after generating enormous interest on Facebook. More than 1,700 people expressed interest in joining the trip but security conditions would only allow 300.
This Eid was the first in three years in which Maslawis (people of Mosul) were able to publicly celebrate. The day was filled with events forbidden under the Islamic State, including poetry readings, theater, and live music. Mosul's visitors also brought a gift of more than 1,000 books from Baghdad as part of the I am Iraq, I Read campaign, an initiative promoting culture and a more educated Iraq. This gift is a start to replacing thousands of books destroyed in Mosul's libraries by the Islamic State.
The day was joyous, bringing together Iraqis to not only celebrate the holiday, but to also celebrate the liberation of Mosul. Scenes hit social media of men and women from across the country singing the national anthem and chanting Brothers, Sunnis and Shia, this country is not for sale, demonstrating a a feeling of unbreakable unity shared among Iraqis.
While the event was mostly organized by activists, the government stepped in to help providing transportation and security for the event.
Source: Global Voices