Iraqis defy ISIL to save 840-year-old Crooked Minaret in Mosul

Iraqis defy ISIL to save 840-year-old Crooked Minaret in Mosul
Tue Jul 29, 2014 09:42:27

Residents of Mosul have watched helplessly as extremists ruling the northern Iraqi city blew up some of their most beloved landmarks and shrines to impose a stark vision of their Takfiri faith. Next up for destruction, they feared: the Crooked Minaret, a more than 840-year-old tower that leans like Italy's Tower of Pisa.

But over the weekend, residents pushed back. When ISIL terrorists loaded with heavy explosives converged on the site, Mosulis living nearby rushed to the courtyard below the minaret, sat on the ground and linked arms to form a human chain to protect it, two residents who witnessed the event told The Associated Press on Monday.

They told the Takfiri militants, If you blow up the minaret, you'll have to kill us too, the witnesses said.

The militants backed down and left, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the militants.

But residents are certain the militants will try again. Over the past two weeks, the extremists ruling Iraq's second largest city have shrugged off previous restraint and embarked on a brutal campaign to purge Mosul of anything that challenges their radical faith, even Muslim shrines that in their iconoclastic fervor they condemn as apostasy.

The scene on Saturday was a startling show of bravery against a group that has shown little compunction against killing anyone who resists it. It reflects the horror among some residents over what has become of their beloved city.

"The bombing of shrines ... has nothing to do with Islam," Abu Abaida, 44, a government employee, told the AP by phone from the city. "They are erasing the culture and history of Mosul." Like other residents, he spoke to the AP on condition he be identified by a nickname or first name for fear of retaliation.

In recent weeks, they have purged the city of nearly its entire Christian population, moved to restrict women and began the systematic destruction of city landmarks.

"No place is safe," said Dia, an engineering professor in Mosul. "If I say one wrong thing, I am dead."

The Crooked Minaret — al-Manara al-Hadba in Arabic — seems to be despised by the militants because it has become a national symbol, and nationalism is anathema to the radicals. The minaret is pictured on Iraq's 10,000-dinar bill. Moreover, local legends surround the minaret, and extremists generally see such stories as un-Islamic inventions.

Built in 1172 as part of the Great al-Nour Mosque, it leans about eight feet (2.4 meters) off perpendicular. Local lore has it that the minaret tilts because it bowed in reverence to the Prophet Muhammad as he made an ascent to heaven.

Nearly daily, the militants have been destroying some of the city's most famed sites.

On Thursday, they lay a wall of explosives around the Mosque of the Prophet Younis — or Jonah, the prophet who in both the Bible and Quran was swallowed by a whale. They ordered everyone out of the shrine, which is said to contain the prophet's tomb, and blew it up.


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