MOSUL | long ago, the Iraqis and the Orientalists tipsy left from here to join Berlin, Istanbul or Venice. Today, the station of Mosul in ruins and its locomotives charred remind us each day to the inhabitants at which point they are cut off from the world.
At the option of the geopolitical and conflict, the journey of the “Taurus Express” which linked since the beginning of the Twentieth century Basra, at the southern tip of Iraq, to Turkey, in the continuation of the famous Orient-Express — Paris-Vienna-Istanbul — is reduced like skin of sorrow.
Of Mosul, where the railway traffic has drastically declined after the u.s. invasion of 2003, two trains have continued to leave each week, direction of Gaziantep in Turkey. Up to one day in the summer of 2010 and a one-way trip to this town in the south of Turkey.
Amer Abdallah, 47, was driving him to the train to Syria, to the West, and Baghdad in the South. “Every day, there were trains of passengers or goods”, remembers the father of five children who still calls his locomotive “sweetheart”.
The golden age forgotten
Today, his “sweetheart” yellow, red, green, and black lies, reversed on one side and eaten away by rust, while the surrounding, wagons and rails are nothing more than rust and debris burnt.
Before, recalls Ali Ogla, 58-year-old, “for only 1 000 or 2 000 dinars (less than a dollar) we could go to Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq”.
“It was a means of comfortable transportation for the sick or the disabled. And we were assured that the goods would arrive without delay or damage,” says the man, an imposing moustache and a black djellaba gray.
The king Faisal II, who was overthrown in 1958, was even in the station the reception hall, recalls Mohammed Abdelaziz, an engineer, rail technical unemployment for years.
“There was here one of the oldest hotels in the northern city of Mosul, cafes, gardens, a garage for cars and, before them, the horse-drawn carriages”, he said to the AFP.
Hundreds of families living through the train: “employees of the railroad or of the building, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, café owners, taxi drivers…”.
It is through Mosul on June 1, 1940, a train rallied for the first time Istanbul from Baghdad.
Today, the capital is no longer related only to Falluja (west), and Karbala, and Basra (south). Far short of the 72 daily connections possible over 2 000 kilometres of railway track to the big time, just before the embargo imposed on the regime of Saddam Hussein in the 1990s.
Ruins and desolation
Already well before, Iraq was at the forefront of progress in the Middle East. As early as 1869, Baghdad has a tram network, of which today nothing remains, nor the elegant cars two-storey wooden or even the rails, swallowed up by the expansion rampant in the capital under the effect of the rural exodus.
The agony of the train station of Mosul has been longer. March 31, 2009, a truck bomb was detonated a part of it. Then, on July 1, 2010, the last train is gone: a one-way trip to Gaziantep.
The third largest city in Iraq, long-time commercial hub of the Middle East, was then ravaged by the fighting against the group jihadist islamic State (EI), between 2014 and 2017.
The station has been “destroyed to 80 %,” says Qahtan Loqman, number two of the railways in the north of Iraq.
The columns of its wharves have been gutted by fire, its facade is now unrecognizable, and the mosaic tiles of the lobby, barely visible.
But since the release three years ago, the station is the great absent of the reconstruction projects with “no background or calendar,” says Mr. Loqman.
“Find the beautiful days”
Yet, with her, it is a part of Iraq, which disappears. In addition to its strategic position on the borders of Iraq, Syria and Turkey, the station of the northern city of Mosul has seen the biggest.
It has been almost a century, it is in its aisles that the novelist british Agatha Christie has developed his adventures in law enforcement, some of which are located in Mosul.
A few decades later, the diva of the arab song Umm Kulthum “is placed by the room of royal reception,” says the director of the station, Mohammed Ahmed.
And in 1970, the time of a legendary concert of the lebanese singer Sabah, the station has agreed to silence its bells and other whistles, so as not to disturb the audience.
Nour Mohammed, a mother of 37 years, she remembers traveling by train with her grandmother to go in the campaign.
“I was ten years old and with family, friends and neighbors, watching the landscape scroll by through the windows. It was a beautiful day. And I hope to return there’, ” she says, nostalgic.