MACDILL AFB, Fla, –
On Oct 17, 2016, the day the operation to liberate Mosul began, The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international not-for-profit organization that works with media and civil society activists to promote positive change in conflict zones and areas of turmoil around the world, launched a digital campaign tagged #LettersToMosul.
On Dec 22, 2016, this IWPR initiative culminated with 2,160 hand-written “Letters to Mosul,” photocopied to total 4 million, released by the Iraqi air force over the skies of the city, to the residents below.
The letters, echoing empathy and support, were penned by fellow Iraqis from all around the country in an effort to reassure the residents of Mosul, still held hostage by ISIL, that they are not forgotten and that the rest of Iraq is standing with them.
Young Iraqi volunteers in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Babil, and Anbar set up kiosks in central areas of each city to invite locals to write messages to the people of Mosul, with the aim of allowing ordinary Iraqis to reach out in direct fashion, via paper letters, to those denied outside information by Islamic State.
In an excerpt from a letter, one Iraqi penned, “My hand, trembling and my pen incapable of including internal words of longing and love to this beautiful city of the Prophet Yunis, the city that I wished to visit … You will return to your most beautiful days with your family and you will hear the prayers of the mosques in Mosul sky, the culture and science will return because everything been robbed from you will come back to you.”
Another letter of encouragement reads, “Dear Mosul you will be liberated soon by our heroes. Our people in Mosul, we are with you in our hearts and souls, I do not find the right words to express to you but do not forget you are part of Iraq, and we will not abandon you. Victory will come soon, God willing.”
The airdrop happened as Iraqi security forces are making deliberate progress conducting operations to liberate the people of Mosul.
“The Iraqi security forces are coming very soon, and the coalition will support them,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, adding “I would like the people of Mosul to know this, and I would like Daesh to know this.”
“Today we have witnessed how civil society in Iraq is making great efforts to promote peace, and true reconciliation at the grass root levels,” said IWPR Iraq program director Nabil Khoury of the airdrop. “The support of the government and the army of Iraq for the #LettersToMosul campaign is a sign of faith in civil society and that Iraq as a whole is working together.”
Supported by coalition air power and Peshmerga forces, the Iraqi security forces are more than two months into operations to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which has been held by ISIL for more than two years.