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May 04, 2012, Friday

Looking from Mosul to Turkey

I am in Mosul, the city of the Greek prophet on the shores of the Tigris. The city’s population is 2 million and the province’s population 3.5 million.

During the Saddam regime, Mosul province was renamed Ninewa. It is the second largest province following Baghdad. Since November 2011, Turkish Airlines (THY) has carried flights from İstanbul to Mosul four times a week. THY is the only airline that flies to Mosul, opening the city to the world. Mosul is only two hours from İstanbul.

Americans have declared Mosul to be the most dangerous city in the world. Before drawing conclusions, it is helpful to know Mosul -- described as even more dangerous than Afghanistan -- and its citizens very well. It is impossible to understand Mosul simply by watching from Washington. There has not been a period of history in which Mosul has received occupiers with open arms. Mosulis do not enjoy despotism. They resist until the very end. When their resistance movements were called terrorism, they did not stop; they continued to fight. They fought against the Mongols, the British and the Americans, too. Just as the Mosulis struggle against their enemies, they remain steadfast in their friendships; they always welcome friends with open arms. Since the Great Selçuk Empire in the 11th century they have lived in harmony with Turks for 1,000 years. They have fought together against occupiers.

Because of this mutual history, the only foreign mission in Mosul since 1946 has been the Consulate General of the Turkish Republic. At the consulate general, which smells of the roses in the garden, there was no fear, only joy. Consul General Ahmet Yazal is young and dynamic. However, his most important characteristic is his philanthropic nature. At the consulate, every morning, everyone eats breakfast together at a long thin table. At breakfast, a member of parliament from Ninewa province sits at the table drinking tea, laughing and joking with those present. This continues until late into the night, sometimes at a large meal in the garden pergola, sometimes at a conference table. The consulate door is open to everyone: Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Yezidis, Azerbaijanis; there is no differentiation based on religion, language, ethnicity or doctrine. People chat together, break bread together and play soccer together. The consulate door is open even to the poor and uneducated. When two Mosuli beggars came to the door, it was clear they were suffering from a sickness of the eyes; without delay they were referred to the Turkish-Iraqi Eye Hospital and given free treatment. When the Americans left their military base in Mosul in November 2011, they took all of their things with them. In fact, the soldiers left only their parrot behind. The consulate took ownership of the bird and named it Şakir. The parrot, which knows English, now speaks Turkish.

On April 23, which coincided with Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, the consulate general opened its doors to Mosuli children, and gifts were given. The voices of children running in the garden mixed with the voices of the security staff. At that moment Yazal received an email from Ankara. Yazal heard that it was the children’s first time attending a concert and saw how excited they were; the happiness shone in their eyes. Daily life in Iraq is full of violence. On April 13, a hidden bomb was discovered in one of the Mosul consulate’s convoys. The incident was not exaggerated or heavily covered by the Iraqi or Turkish press. As the Egyptian saying goes, “the letter is clear from its header.” In collaboration with the Dutch University in Kirkuk, the Germans organized a conference named “No to Violence” on April 15 which resulted in bloodshed. The conference at Kirkuk was not organized by Turkey but, once again, Turkey aimed to help the wounded. The Mosul consulate sent the wounded to Turkey by ambulance.

Mosul University Professor Ubeyd Said Deveci was injured by three bullets to the neck and face after attempting to stop an armed attack. On Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdoğan’s orders, Deveci was taken from Mosul by helicopter and treated in Ankara. After the attack, Deveci’s voice became husky and quiet, but his courage became stronger. Since 2003, Turkey has brought thousands of injured people to Turkish hospitals by both road and air. The hospitals care for the injured free of charge and send them back to Iraq. I was curious about the proportion of ethnicities, religions and denominations amongst the injured. But no distinction has been made in this way. In the records all are referred to only as “Iraqi.” There is no separation. An icy wind is blowing between Ankara and Baghdad, but summer has come early to Mosul. The air and hearts of the area are warm. Mosul continues necessary development of sectors like city cleaning, housing, hospitals, health centers, schools, power plants, water purification and waste management. They await Turkish investors.

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