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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.

 

Partners

theguardian

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.

lemonde

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.

sueddeutsche

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.

 

Credits

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

 

Faced with two dangerous options, Hossein L. and his family chose the least dangerous one. Even so, the end of the dust-filled house they have lived in for the last week, surrounded by bundles of clothes and bags filled with bric-à-brac, threatens to collapse at any moment.

Moreover, the century-old building was condemned by the council as unfit for habitation, and its promised restoration is now even more deserved because, with its wooden latticed windows or mashrabiyas and its now impassable openwork bridges, it retains a rare charm in a city that has destroyed much of its past and is quite taken with concrete “modernity”. However, it is next to the Al-Kadhimiya mausoleum, the large Shiite mosque which for nearly five centuries has stood with its golden domes and four magnificent minarets soaring towards the sky and it is, barring accidents, very unlikely that the American “liberators” will shell it.

“My usual house is in excellent condition and not far from here”, explains Hossein. “But it’s… how shall I put this…? It’s too close to a certain target that the Anglo-Saxon pigs have already bombed twice in the last few days, although I swear that no-one has been there for weeks.” It’s pointless trying to persist, as clear instructions have been given to the population, as well as to journalists, to not identify either marked or potential targets for the American-British coalition on any account.

Hossein, his wife and six children are not the only ones to have been transported with what they can carry to the alleys of this both souk, both wretched and lively, where groups of children play ball amidst the accumulating rubbish. “The militia came through the streets and warned us it was dangerous to stay at home. They said we were free to choose. If we wanted to leave”, continues Hossein L. “The council would find us emergency housing, such as this.” “Emergency” being the operative word.

As time goes on and Baghdadis get used to the sporadic but daily explosions of bombs and missiles which continue to rain down day and night, life is returning to normal in the city centre and on the outskirts. On Sunday 30th March, the eleventh day of the war, roughly a quarter of shops and restaurants on the main avenues in the centre  had opened and set up tables. The sand storm has passed, but it has clouded over, a light shower has fallen and a fresh breeze adds a chill to the air.

At the bus terminal, buses for Basra, Najaf and Karbala in the south, as well as for Mosul and Kirkuk in the north, are still running and filled with passengers. The white and ochre municipal buses and the public and private taxis – decrepit Volkswagens and huge worn-out American estates for the most part – are numerous, along with the traffic jams.

On Bab Al-Murad, the ribbon of asphalt which leads towards the Al-Kadhimiya mosque, people selling “dehineh”, delicious caramel-colour cakes, have reappeared, as have people selling fizzy drinks, black tea and fruit and vegetables. The grocery stores have supplies, the bakers have flour. In the shops, butchers are still chopping up lamb and beef.

The price of goods not subsidised by the state – unlike the prices of flour, oil, sugar, milk and cheese, which have been frozen, and even reduced – is rising. Beggars, and especially women beggars wearing long, dark, dirty abayas, are more numerous than ever. Sometimes their cries are rewarded by a passer-by, and sometimes they are driven away. Qoudayer, one of the few gold merchants to have re-opened his shop in the local souk, tells us: “I am buying more women’s jewellery than I am selling.” That cannot be the case for everyone, as prices are going up: 115,000 dinars for five grams of gold before the war, 135,000 today, which is about 60 euros. In Baghdad as elsewhere, gold remains a safe investment.

Yet Baghdad is not starving. Mahmoud, a greengrocer, explained in the vegetable market: “Fruit and vegetables are still arriving from Basra and elsewhere.” On Friday evening, seven Italian journalists coming from Kuwait, stopped by Iraqi soldiers leaving the large Shiite city in the south and sent to Baghdad without an escort, confirm having made the 500 km journey between Iraq’s two biggest cities without having seen “any sign of fighting or tanks”. It’s a strange war.

In the Al-Jawadean district on the West bank of the Tigris, Wamed and his brother Hazem, 22 and 24, have re-opened their women’s underwear boutique. Most of the stock is still in the warehouse but, amongst the posters of British footballer David Beckham, of French footballer Zinedine Zidane and all their favourite teams which decorate the shop, the customers can still find colourful pants and lacy bras in all sizes. In come Intissar, her sister and her daughter Shedah, aged 14. All three are wearing Western clothes, trousers, jackets and coloured scarves over their curls. Last night, around 5am, the telephone exchange in Al-Adhamiyah, where they live, was bombed. It’s the third time, and half the town has no telephone. The windows of the apartment were shattered. The girls were scared; they too are thinking of moving, but Intissar is reluctant, as the apartment is close to her job at the Al-Rachid bank, which remains open.

In Al-Aramyeh souk, the famous “thieves’ market” in Al-Tahrir square, in the city centre, the dozens of street hawkers selling old short-wave radios, ancient TVs and video recorders of dubious origin are, they claim, raking it in. Othman, a Sudanese man with ebony skin, tells us: “Business is good, prices have almost doubled. People want to listen to the news, you see.”

Ahmed, who sells video cassettes and CDs, is doing a roaring trade. His films and recordings of popular music are renting and selling like hot-cakes. “Most offices and factories are closed. People will soon be short of money. But in the meantime, they are bored and looking for entertainment.”

In front of his stall, there is a strong young man. A leather strap hanging from his shoulder stretches his jacket out of shape. At the end, there is a Kalashnikov rifle, pointing towards the ground. He says his name is Mohammed, and that he is “one of Saddam Hussein’s fedayeen”, the armed militia in the service of the Ba’ath regime. No-one asks for his opinion on the war, but he gives it, in a stentorian voice, that everyone can hear, to nods of approval. “We are going to beat these American dogs and their British lackeys. We will defend our beloved president to the very end!” And the man goes back to looking at the CDs, in the “American action films” section.

The newspaper kiosk

Day after day, Baghdad learns to live with the war

Posted on 08.03.2013

Despite the constant bombardment, life goes on in the Iraqi capital.

By Patrice Claude – “Le Monde”, 2 April 2003

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Le Monde

Left-leaning Le Monde, self-proclaimed “newspaper of reference”, is the planet’s main French-language daily. 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.