For many Mosul residents, Daesh occupation is a traumatic memory that still dominates daily life, around a year and a half after the jihadist group was forced out of its one-time Iraqi stronghold.
So Valentine’s Day offered the city the chance to try to reconnect with a kinder and gentler past before celebrations and festivities were banned, as members of a civil activist group walked through war-scarred streets distributing flowers.
“Love is not only between a young man and a young woman,” said one, Ali Amjid.
Love is among brothers, love among friends … Love of your city which we should work to develop.
For Fahd al-Yousif, arranging red balloons outside his cafe, healing the psychological damage wrought by Islamic State is a communal task that is only just beginning.
“It is difficult to talk about Valentine’s Day with someone who lost his son, brother, wife … ,” he said.
But we are gradually starting to regain some of these values and such love.