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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

 

Abu Muhammad lies in his front room and tells a story depressingly familiar by Iraqi standards. A public servant, he was travelling to work when he hit traffic at the nearest checkpoint to the highway out of his neighbourhood. So he took a detour and used another checkpoint that would take him through a predominantly Shia area.

One hundred metres from the checkpoint he was blocked by two cars and dragged from his vehicle by masked, armed men. “They didn’t seem to know my name. They swore at me and when I asked what they were doing, I was hit on the head with a pistol. I fought and then they shot me in the foot. They tried to put me in the boot but I managed to break free. Then I was running. That’s when they shot me again.”

It may sound like a story from the bad years of sectarian conflict from 2005 to 2008, when at its peak on average 3,000 people were killed every month. But this episode happened earlier this year, and speaks volumes about the rising tide of sectarian confrontation that has returned to Iraq. Ultimately, Abu was saved by a crowd of local Shia residents who began shouting at the gunmen. He believes he was targeted for the simple reason he was driving from a Sunni neighbourhood and he has “a Sunni face”.

The brother of Amr Ali al-Dulaimi, a Sunni on the security detail of the environment minister, who was gunned down a month ago in the Baghdad suburb of Baya, is also anxious not to be named. “My brother had been looking after a friend’s house in a wealthy mixed neighbourhood where he felt safe. It was the end of the school holidays and he thought he’d take his children to get their hair cut and went to a barber he knew in Baya where we grew up, calling him first to make an appointment. They’d finished and the kids were in the car when a man dressed in black and wearing a baseball cap stepped up to him and shot him in the head. He’d had no threats I know of. He would have told me. But he was well known in the district from when we lived there. We’re not sure who killed him but Shia militias are active in that area.”

On Friday, it was the turn of Hussain al-Hadeethi, the imam at the Sunni al-Rasheed mosque in Sab Albor who was shot and wounded leaving his mosque after leading the ishaa – the night prayer.

It is not only Sunnis who are being killed. There are stories of killings on the other side of the sectarian divide – Shia policemen from a unit deployed from Basra who were shot at their checkpoint last week, for example. If the events seem grimly reminiscent of the sectarian war, many observers believe that what is happening in Iraq today is very different.

“It is getting worse right now for all Iraqis”, said Pascale Warda, of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation. “The security situation now is worse as well as the political situation.” She is keen – like many observers – to draw a sharp distinction with what happened in Iraq’s sectarian war, not least because political leaders now appear at pains, in public at least, to disavow sectarianism. “I was at a women’s conference last week. The prime minister [Nouri al-Maliki] was there. He made an excellent speech saying Iraq would not go back to the sectarian days. I also saw him speak at a church and say the same. All of which is very good but I was bothered by the fact that he did not acknowledge the speaker of the parliament [Osama al-Nejafi, a Sunni very publicly at loggerheads with Maliki] nor did Nejafi acknowledge Maliki.”

Warda, like others spoken to by the Guardian, blames a complex coincidence of events of the present violence.

Sunnis in the province of Anbar, centred on the city of Falluja, have stepped up protests, complaining of the marginalisation of Sunnis within Iraqi institutions. The government in Baghdad has clamped down to prevent the protests spreading to the capital.

The political backdrop has not helped. A stalemate has persisted since the last national elections in 2010, when Maliki failed to win a majority but managed to pull enough Shia factions around him to govern. Since then, Sunni Iraqis have accused Maliki of being a dictator. He has accused his detractors of plotting against the state.

The result, Warda argues, is not sectarian hatred for its own sake as was visible five years ago. Instead, where it exists, it is defined by a political agenda.

If the dangers are apparent in the sporadic killings and bombings that blight Iraqi life, it is also being exacerbated by marginal actors with the power to frighten and by jostling for the spoils of rampant corruption. Last month the head of Iraq’s Hizbollah Battalions Wathiq al-Battat announced the creation of the Mukhtar army, a new Shia sectarian militia – allied with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – whose aim he said was to “combat terrorism”, which distributed leaflets in the Sunni Jihad neighbourhood last month warning Sunnis: “You are the enemy. Leave along with your families.”
“Wathiq al-Battat’s a joke”, explains Saad al-Muttalibi, a senior Dawa party official close to the prime minister. “He doesn’t even know how to load a gun!” He concedes insecurity is a problem, but prefers to blame it on more complex factors.

“There are problems in different places associated with different things. Sometimes it is hard to unravel exactly what is going on. In Anbar province you can feel the growing influence of al-Qaida”, said Saad al-Muttalibi. “We agreed with the local authorities to pull back from Falluja and let them police it, but as soon as we did al-Qaida were back within five minutes. And you have to ask who benefits from the instability – al-Qaida and the Ba’athists [supporters of the party of Saddam Hussein].”

Notably absent from the stage is the Mahdi army, the Shia militia loyal to the cleric Moqtadr al-Sadr which perpetrated some of the worst abuses during the sectarian war. But if the Mahdi army has been conspicuous by its absence, a new factor has been introduced – the dangerously destabilising influence of the war in Syria next door, which also risks feeding into sectarian divisions in a conflict where the Free Syrian Army is largely Sunni and Bashar al-Assad’s regime is dominated by Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam.

At the beginning of the month, 42 Syrian soldiers loyal to Assad who had fled into Iraq were ambushed and killed along with 11 Iraqi policemen, by suspected Sunni militants.

Ibrahim al-Sumydai, a Sunni and former senior adviser to the interior ministry, with connections to top officials in the Iraqi government is worried by developments on both sides. He believes the failure of the government to listen to the complaints of the Anbar protesters is in danger of strengthening a resurgent al-Qaida in Iraq. He fears too that with provincial elections in April neither the Sunni speaker of the parliament nor the PM is prepared to appear weak to their own sectarian constituencies, leading to a stalemate.

“My own nephew was arrested and confessed under duress to crimes he had not committed. I have connections but in the end I had to pay to get the false charges dropped. Every Sunni family has had a similar experience”, he said.

“But I know for a fact that the prime minister wants to act and defuse the situation. The way the pressure on him is being presented by his opponents he is in a difficult position because they are giving the impression their aim is to twist his arm. If he is seen to back down to the demands he will lose support in the local elections among his own people. The same is true of Nejafi and his supporters. They don’t appeal across the country only to their own streets. When this crisis started I tried to appeal to the prime minister as a mediator but nothing is happening, he partially responded but it was not enough.”

“My concern?” he adds, answering himself. “Both sides are playing with fire. And the question is do we have time to solve this crisis?”

The newspaper kiosk

Return to sectarian violence

Posted on 15.03.2013

Shias and Sunnis increase attacks amid concern Syria war could raise violence to levels of deadliest period in nation’s history.

By Peter Beaumont – “The Guardian”, 13 March 2013

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The Guardian

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.