SPECIAL EDITION: IRAQ AT 10 [part one: witness]

SPECIAL EDITION: IRAQ AT 10 [part two: choice]

SPECIAL EDITION: IRAQ AT 10[part three: reckoning]

10 YEARS LATER, AN ANNIVERSARY MANY IRAQIS WOULD PREFER TO IGNORE


Tim Arango | The New York Times | 18 March 2013

“You see these people,” he said. “They are here to sell birds to earn some money to help them live. People are not interested in that. They are desperate and want to see real change, so they’ve stopped looking at the news or remembering past events.”

. . . “If our situation were better than this, we would surely remember that day when the Americans came to free Iraq and gave us the chance to build a better future,” Mr. Shimari said. “But the Americans didn’t give us that chance. They did all the things possible to ensure that Iraq is going to be ruined.” Here, the war is not for the history books but rather an event whose outcome is still uncertain.

IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS

James Longley | 2006

An opus in three parts, Iraq In Fragments offers a series of intimate, passionately-felt portraits: A fatherless 11-year-old is apprenticed to the domineering owner of a Baghdad garage; Sadr followers in two Shiite cities rally for regional elections while enforcing Islamic law at the point of a gun; a family of Kurdish farmers welcomes the US presence, which has allowed them a measure of freedom previously denied.

American director James Longley spent more than two years filming in Iraq to create this stunningly photographed, poetically rendered documentary of the war-torn country as seen through the eyes of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Winner of Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing awards in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival documentary competition, the film was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2007.

Iraq in Fragments is available in 5 parts on Daily Motion starting here.

IRAQ: 10 YEARS ON

Roula Khalaf | The Financial Times | 16 March 2013
Photo slideshow by Sebastian Meyer

The man had approached me in the decaying lobby of Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel 10 years ago, with a little piece of paper in his hand, my name scribbled in Arabic. His name was Abbas al-Sarray, he was an Iraqi Shia, sometime driver, sometime construction worker. He had 10 children and he was looking for a job. A few days earlier, across the street in Firdos Square, a new Iraq had been born, as the towering statue of Saddam Hussein, the dictator who had turned the country to ruin during more than two decades of rule, came tumbling down, with help from American troops who had marched into the capital.

. . . Forty-eight-year-old Abbas became the FT’s driver in the years that followed, and also a friend to correspondents. Now that I was back in the country 10 years after the US invasion, there he was, looking barely a day older, his sarcastic humour as piercing as ever. He’d had another child since then but was no longer in the mood for driving in Baghdad’s clogged streets. One of his sons now has a government job so he helps finance the family. Abbas has been taking philosophy courses and is preparing to run for a seat on the Baghdad provincial council in the April elections. He is about to start his door-to-door campaigning. “I’ll still be the same Abbas if I win,” he reassures me. When I ask him about life in Baghdad, he bursts out laughing. Like most Iraqis I would meet on this trip, he was disillusioned, at times livid at the disparity between what Iraq is today and what it could be. “Nothing’s changed,” he tells me, time and time again. “In fact, it’s all going backwards. I might as well go into politics since I have nothing else to do. Even people who have jobs don’t do anything at their work. We Iraqis just consume now, we don’t actually produce anything.”

. . . The north of the country is inhabited by the Kurds, who were already semi-autonomous and have benefited the most, their lands spared much of the sectarian fighting that blighted the rest of the country and protected by their own militias. Their economy is also booming, and they are exploiting their own oil resources.

Southern Shia parts of the country too are re-emerging from conflict, and reconstruction is starting apace around religious shrines in Karbala and Najaf. However, the centre of the country and the capital Baghdad seems to belong to a different time. A veneer of modern trappings conceals an Arab capital stuck in the 1970s rather than the 21st century.

. . . What I found was a society traumatised by decades of war and sanctions, in the midst of a constant political storm. The new Iraq has a prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whose partners in government denounce him on a fairly regular basis as an aspiring Shia dictator; a Sunni vice-president who fled the country more than a year ago after being accused of terrorism; and a long-time central bank governor who was sacked after being targeted in a corruption investigation. Iraq also has a finance minister who has just resigned after his bodyguards were arrested on terrorism charges. (All the officials deny the accusations.) “A black, black comedy,” is how Sarmad al-Tahai, a columnist for al-Mada newspaper, describes the state of the country’s politics. A young colleague from the same media organisation, 24-year-old Hamad al-Sayyed, is equally disenchanted. “We went from one-party rule to constant confrontation, to a lack of consensus, to parties which say they represent God on earth but which corrupt civil life.”

. . . At a dealership for Chinese cars, which are popular with taxi drivers, Maisam Fawzi, a 26-year-old saleswoman whose made-up face is wrapped by a colourful headscarf, says she has a civil engineering degree but can’t find employment in her field. She paid $5,000 to someone close to someone important in the government to secure a job, but has been waiting for a year and is now asking for her money back. “That’s how you get a job, that’s our government,” she told me. “They’re keeping people busy with cars, electronics and mobiles and they give us no services, no security or jobs and no housing.” Even so, surely life is better than under Saddam’s dictatorship, I ask her? She shrugs. “We had one oppressive regime but now we have 100 political parties that are oppressive. We can express ourselves but so what? No one is listening.”

Clocking nearly 5000 words, there is a lot more to read. Well worth it.

INSIDE ISLAM: WHAT A BILLION MUSLIMS REALLY THINK

Robert Gardner | 2009

Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think explores the expertly gathered opinions of Muslims around the globe as revealed in the world’s first major opinion poll, conducted by Gallup, the preeminent polling organization.

Gallup researchers began by asking the questions on every American’s mind. Why is there so much anti-Americanism in the Muslim world? Who are the extremists and how do Muslims feel about them? What do Muslims like and dislike about the West? What do Muslim women really want? Crucial policy decisions hang on these questions. They continue to generate passionate disagreements in the public square. Yet for all the heat and controversy, the actual views of the world’s Muslims have been conspicuously missing from this debate.

Now, we have the missing answers and statistics, gathered, parsed, and analyzed not by pundits but by professional researchers. As part of this groundbreaking six-year project, Gallup conducted tens of thousands of interviews with residents in 35 predominantly Muslim nations, as well as smaller populations in Europe and the USA.

IRAQ’S BABY NOOR: AN UNFINISHED MIRACLE

Moni Basu | CNN | March 2013
Video by David S. Holloway and Brandon Ancil

I am making this long journey now in search of a little girl. I’d always thought of her as a metaphor for the war. She was someone whom the Americans saved, just like they saved Iraq from Saddam Hussein. But now she was unfinished business. Forgotten by America. A decade after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, she is a broken girl in a broken land.

Noor al-Zahra Haider was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the vertebrae do not form completely around the spinal cord. Doctors in Iraq said she was certain to die. . . Noor al-Zahra Haider, was the beneficiary of one of those acts. She was not even 3 months old yet when I first saw her, suffering from a severe spinal cord birth defect that was certain to kill her. She was discovered by soldiers patrolling impoverished Abu Ghraib — the town notorious for its high-security prison — and shuttled to America for life-saving surgery.

She became known to the world as Baby Noor. Her smile enthralled everyone who saw her on television screens and newspaper pages. She was labeled Iraq’s miracle baby.

A GRIM PORTRAIT OF CIVILIAN CAUSALTIES

The New York Times | 23 October 2010
Iraq dead - 1

REMEMBERING IRAQIS DISPLACED

Elizabeth Ferris | Foreign Policy | 18 March 2013

Looking at the past 10 years of Iraq’s history through the lens of displacement reveals a complex — and sobering — reality. Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, humanitarian agencies prepared for a massive outpouring of Iraqi refugees. But this didn’t happen. Instead a much more dynamic and complex form of displacement occurred. First, some 500,000 Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been displaced by the Saddam Hussein regime returned to their places of origin. Then, in the 2003 to 2006 period, more than a million Iraqis were displaced as sectarian militias battled for control of specific neighborhoods. In February 2006, the bombing of the Al-Askaria Mosque and its violent aftermath ratcheted the numbers of IDPs up to a staggering 2.7 million. In a period of about a year, five percent of Iraq’s total population fled their homes and settled elsewhere in Iraq while an additional 2 million or so fled the country entirely. It is important to underscore that this displacement was not just a by-product of the conflict, but rather the result of deliberate policies of sectarian cleansing by armed militias.

The internally displaced were the most vulnerable — and perhaps the clearest sign of the success of sectarian cleansing as entire neighborhoods were transformed. Sunnis and Shiites alike moved from mixed communities to ones where their sect was the majority. And while the displacement of Sunnis and Shiites was massive, proportionately the displacement of religious minorities was even more sweeping in effect.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN BAGHDAD

Marya Hunnun | Foreign Policy | 18 March 2013
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matson1

In 1932, Iraq had just gained independence after more than ten years as a British mandate and centuries under Ottoman rule. Baghdad, famed at the time for its quaint blend of Turkish architecture and ancient markets, suddenly found itself the capital of a fledgling Iraqi nation. The ethnic and religious tensions that would ignite in the coming decades of war and sanctions were already present but not yet explosive, and the vast oil reserves that would transform the capital into a booming metropolis had only just been discovered. These 1932 photographs, drawn from the Matson Collection at the Library of Congress, show a Baghdad on the brink of a new era, struggling to discover its identity in a time before it was defined by devastation.

PLAYLIST: CONTEMPORARY IRAQI OUD MUSIC

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SPECIAL EDITIONIRAQ AT 10 [part two: choice]

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