How can and should post-conflict cities be rebuilt after traumatic violence and forced displacement? Five years following Mosul’s liberation from the extremist reign of Islamic State, controversy surrounds attempts to revive the city’s rich cultural heritage and pluralistic past. This paper examines Mosul’s ongoing reconstruction initiatives, shaped by competing memory narratives and actors (local and international) vying for the right to reimagine the city. It explores how violent urbicide has ruptured Moslawi’s identity and belonging, contributing to fragmented memories of the past and diverging aspirations for the future. Drawing on diverse perspectives from inhabitants within the city and its periphery, the article suggests that urban recovery must balance heritage restoration as a means to reviving traditions of co-existence while still acknowledging the traumatic memories of destruction and erasure. The opportunities for ‘building back better’ must navigate fine margins between local sensibilities, international support and the illusive search for social recovery.

This abstract is part of an article that was originally published in the journal Peacebuilding.