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About the project

March 2003 – March 2013. Ten years of war seen from Iraq and elsewhere on a webdocumentary that is updated daily to May, 1 – the day that George Bush declared the “Mission Accomplished”.

What do we know about Iraq? What images does it conjure up? A birthplace of writing, gold (the black sort), a primetime war, an ousted dictator and, today, the occasional blurry, blood-stained news.

The verbosity that once gushed from Western media has dried up and the lingering impression surrounding Baghdad today is one of everyday but faraway chaos. But what do we know – really – about Iraqis’ daily lives today, 10 years after the second Gulf War began? What do Shiites, Sunnites, Kurds and Christians have to say about their aspirations, sufferings, doubts and hopes? That was what we wanted to hear and see. This webdocumentary is all about what they have to say, in their video stories, their photos and their interviews.

The goal is to get the facts straight from the source and home in on an undeniably less “West-centred” perspective than usual.

Columnists from three partner European dailies – Le Monde, die Süddeutsche Zeitung and The Guardian – have contributed to this picture. International experts help to unravel its complex history and the geopolitical stakes down the road. Last but not least, we also called press photographers and newspaper illustrators to the witness stand.

At the end of the day, the goal is to understand a decade in Iraq, enlightened by the people who made it happen.

This project ties in with the series that started with Afghanistan in 2011, which you can enjoy (or enjoy again) on our website.

The nine sections

Things seen. We asked a woman director, Katia Jarjoura, to tell us about “her” Iraq in a series of “pillboxes” that captured the moment in and around Baghdad. These 10 snapshots add up to the story of her month-long stint in Iraq in 2013.

Iraq, my country. Iraq through the eyes and lenses of seasoned or starting-out young directors. They each share their own take on their country, and allow us to see common Iraqis and their remarkable testimonies.

Trip diary. A 10-episode, commentary-free road movie by a French-Iraqi journalist Feurat Alani who travelled that country from North to South.

Images of Iraq. The principle is simple: 5 Iraqi photographers and 5 foreign photographers tell us about 10 snapshots from their files, providing 100 living angles adding up to a 360° perspective.

In exile. They left their country to start their lives anew across the world. We met these “Iraqis afar” and brought back 10 portraits of men and women with troubled stories.

Iraq 2.0. Did Wikileaks change the course of Iraq’s history? How is the country that invented writing living with the 2.0 revolution today? That is the question we try to answer.

The newspaper kiosk. Our partner newspapers Le Monde (France), The Guardian (UK) and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) provided a series of articles spanning the decade from 2003 to 2013 in Iraq.

Pen strokes. A great drawing is worth more than a bad speech and a good old platitude beats a poor presentation. 10 caricature artists from around the world tell us about 10 years of Iraqi news.

Background. Interviews with experts, articles and letters are just about everything you need to present Iraq and its history? The goal is not to say everything there is to say: it is to provide the keys to understand a complicated picture. That is our message here.




Founded in 1821, The Guardian can no longer be described as just a newspaper. Under Guardian news and media, one of the UK’s most successful media companies, its flagship guardian.co.uk has become one of the world’s most visted news websites. In addition to the contents of the print edition, there are specialised sections on the arts, sports, travel, the media, as well as multimedia content (documentaries, podcasts) produced by staffers, offering what must be one of the most complete English-language news services. Owned by the Scott Trust, the Guardian is generally considered to be the centre-left title of reference. Though close to New Labour, it’s tradition of editorial independence means that it is often highly critical of the government.


Left-leaning Le Monde, self-proclaimed “newspaper of reference”, is the planet’s main French-language daily, with 35,000 copies distributed abroad. Despite being considered an evening paper since its foundation in 1944, it wraps daily at 10.30 a.m and is on the streets of Paris by midday. In order to widen its readership and soften its longstanding reputation for austerity, the template and contents have been modernized, made more spacious and reader friendly. With over 40 million visits monthly, lemonde.fr is the number one news website in French, featuring articles from the paper edition and hosting a large number of blogs. It also includes regular news updates, slideshows and video content.


Founded in Munich in 1945, this “intellectual newspaper of German left-wing liberalism” is the one nation’s daily mainstay. The SZ, renowned for its independence, is also famed for its Streiflicht, a daily front-page column that offers an ironic take on current events, as well the main feature on page 3. Much of this broadsheet is given over to coverage and analysis of national and international news. Some of the articles on the website are enhanced with SZ-produced videos. It also devotes a special site for the younger generation: jetzt.de.



ARTE GEIE – Information department

Director: Marco Nassivera

Editors in chief ARTE Reportage: Philippe Brachet, Uwe Lothar Müller

Online editors: Donatien Huet, David Zurmely

Production: Sandrine Heitz, Cécile Thomas, Caroline Kelsch

Translation: Éclair Group

Mixing: Marc Gigoux, Thierry Weil, Michel Puls

Music: Nahawend, by Fawzy Al Ayedy. Album: Oud Aljazira. Label: Buda Musique/Musiques en balade. Year: 1999.

Website made by FCINQ

“Trip diary”

Direction: Feurat Alani. Montage: Santiago Avalos. ARTE GEIE/Baozi Production – December 2012

“Things seen”

Direction: Katia Jarjoura. Montage: Wissam Charraf. ARTE GEIE/Baozi Production – January 2013

“Irak, my country”

Direction: Abdul Rahim Mackie, Ahmed Taleb al Sultan, Ali al Hadithy, Malik Alawi, Omar Yassine. ARTE GEIE/Baozi Production – January 2013

Direction: Namer Ablhed Huna, Awat Ali, Soran Qurbani, Ismaeel Omar Ali, Haval Salah Ali. Picture, sound, montage: Dhafir Ali Mashy, Ali Muhamed Ramzan, Hemn Zahir, Koshish Bakr, Anwar Ahmed,  Kerîm Muhamedi, Mensûr Elyasî, Jêhat Barîs, Ranj Abdulla, Kurdo Ahmad, Habib Kadri, Evan Aziz, Farman Ali. Alterdoc – 2010-2012


Green: Shia Arabs; red: Sunni Arabs; orange: Kurds; bleu: Turkmens; violet: Christians. Data: Princeton University.

The year is 632, and the death of Mahomet in Medina marks the start of the internecine battles between Muslims. The Shiites believe that the prophet transferred the reins of power to his own descendants – first to his cousin and son-in-law, the imam Ali, who in turn passed it on to his son, the imam Hussein – and categorically reject the three caliphs chosen from the disciples of Mahomet: the very ones whose authority is recognised by the Sunni, who now make up nearly nine out of ten Muslims in the world. The schism also has origins in a bloody struggle for power, which saw the imams Ali and Hussein killed by rivals. The latter, killed at the battle of Karbala (Iraq) in 680, symbolises martyrdom in the Shiite tradition: today, during the annual festival of Ashura, followers flagellate themselves as punishment for not having protected Hussein.

The two traditions have different concepts of law, observance, and religious hierarchy, but follow the same fundamental principles of Islam. Whilst dominant in Persian Iran, Shiites are impoverished and denied rights in large parts of the Arab world. The most extreme Sunnis, the Salafists, consider the Shiites to be heretics, a tradition that is strong in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Jihadists of Al-Qaeda. Despite their differing theological, legal and political approaches, Shiites and Sunnis have cohabited for centuries, with believers from both sides meeting up every year for the Hajj, the great pilgrimage to Mecca.

In Iraq, the current conflict between Shiites and Sunnis is not only the result of the schism dating back 1,400 years, but also of the policies during the reign of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni from Tikrit, between 1979 and 2003. The Arab Sunnis, roughly a quarter of the population, were favoured with jobs and political positions, whilst the Shiites, who make up over half of the population, were deprived of their political rights and saw their religious freedoms reduced. Today, the situation has been reversed, with Shiite political parties dominating the elections since 2005. It is not only Sunni Iraqis who are irritated by this development, but also governments in Arab countries that are allied with the United States, who fear the increased influence of Iran in the region.

Nearly 80% of Iraqis are Arabs, whilst roughly 15% are Kurds – an ethnic group with its own language, history and culture, living mainly in northern Iraq, but also in eastern Turkey, north-east Syria and north-west Iran. Iraqi Kurds have fought for their rights as a cultural minority, and have suffered brutal repression, but have enjoyed relative independence since the Gulf war in 1991 thanks to American protection. Although they take part in national Iraqi political life, and one of their leaders, Jalal Talabani, has been president of Irak since 2005, most Iraqi Kurds seek total independence from Iraq. The Kurds are mostly Sunni, with a Shiite minority, but the Kurds’ political identity is distinguished by its secular nationalism.

The 2005 constitution officially recognises the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan, allowing it to directly benefit from the oil income and maintain its own armed forces. Only the oil-rich city of Kirkuk remains a sticking point: it is claimed by the Kurds, the Arabs and the Turkman minority – less than 5% of the population, but supported by Turkey, a country fiercely opposed to an independent Kurdish state.

Predating Islam and present for over 2,000 years in the lands of Abraham, the Iraqi Christian community is one of the oldest in the Middle-East, but may well simply disappear in the coming years. Sectarian violence has forced two-thirds of Christians, estimated at over one million prior to the American invasion in 2003, to flee the country. And the exodus continues.

The viewpoint of Walter Sommerfeld. He teaches Assyriology at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany.


Understanding the ethnic and religious divisions

Posted on 23.04.2013

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was governed by a primarily Sunni lay elite, who oppressed the Shiite Arab majority and the Kurd minority. The fall of Saddam’s regime reshuffled the cards and the clans have been fighting amongst themselves ever since.

Text and datavizualisation: Donatien Huet

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The program ARTE Reportage faces the world head on. Dedicated to international news, its field of investigation is the planet and it does not give any concessions to any razzmatazz or famous people.