Mosul's biggest theatre opened to the public on Tuesday – five years after it was burnt down by ISIS.
The theatre inside Mosul’s university campus, adjacent to the busy student centre and central library, is the biggest hall in the Nineveh governorate with about 1,500 capacity.
The cultural site was severely damaged by the terrorist group when they took control of the city in 2014.
But now the theatre is full of life once again following a reopening ceremony on the university campus.
Mohammed Fadhil, head of Mosul university's media department, told The National the public were stunned as they entered a theatre which brought life back into the battered city.
“Life in the city stopped following the takeover of ISIS. They burnt the building down and shattered our hopes,” Mr Fadhil said.
The theatre opened in 1984 and became the place where the university’s ceremonies were held until the takeover of the extremists.
“There are no words to express our happiness that the only theatre in Mosul and one of the biggest theatres in Iraq has finally reopened,” he said.
The theatre represents the cultural and intellectual class of Mosul, Mr Fadhil said. He said people were "proud to have these institutions that portrays the true colours of the city".
It will host its first show on February 24 with a performance by The Watar Youth Orchestra.
Since 2019, the theatre has been rehabilitated by UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilisation (FFS), while Germany has financially supported the project which was provided through KFW Development Bank.
"From the start of FFS operations in Mosul in early 2017, we prioritised the rehabilitation of Mosul University, due to its symbolic importance as a centre of learning,” Zena Ali Ahmad, UNDP Resident Representative in Iraq, said.
“I am very pleased to see how far we have come. I hope the University’s Theatre Hall becomes a hub for not just learning but celebration of peace, art, music and culture."
Key features of the Theatre Hall include state-of-the-art equipment for digital projections, surround sound system, perforated wall panels for acoustic enhancement and numbered seating.
Germany decided to fund the project as a way to connect "young Iraqis of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds through the means of artistic self-expression and joint cultural performance", said Peter Felten, charge d’affaires of the Germany Embassy in Baghdad.
“The arts, music and scientific discourse are key elements to promote mutual understanding and peace within society,” Mr Felten said.
Germany hopes the contribution will revive "the famous spirit of Mosul as a city that has always drawn its prosperity from the fruitful interaction between the diverse cultural, religious and ethnic components of its population", he said.
Student numbers up
Mosul University is the country’s second-largest institution of higher learning, after the University of Baghdad, with 24 colleges, 40,000 male and female students and 11,000 faculty before the invasion of ISIS, the UN has said.
The number of students at the university now surpasses enrolment rates before ISIS occupation by more than 40 per cent.
The ISIS takeover resulted in the damage of many of the university's buildings, library resources and technical equipment.
ISIS were driven out by government forces with the assistance of an international coalition in 2017.
The terrorist group controlled about one third of Iraq and Syria from mid-2014 until late 2017.