Monday, March 24, 2008

Iraq is Dying and No one is looking for the cure

No one is innocent, not in our eyes, nor in their eyes. Our tribal tendencies are at their height. 

I have endured close to two weeks of self contemplation within arms reach of my soul's land, Iraq, and I have endured the fighting urge to just pick up and go back every day. Its stronger than ever before, maybe because I know that this year is going to hold something very important for Iraq and its people. 2008. Let me clarify:

1958- Abdel Karim Qasim's military coup
1968- Baath party military coup with Hasan Al Bakr
1978- Saddamn begins his reign
1988- The Halabja massacre and the End of the Iran-Iraq war 
1998- The  UN inspections fiasco and "Operation Desert Fox"
2008- ??????????????????????????

This year, I will hold my breath. And I fear for the worst. 

Since I last set foot on my homeland in 2004, things have successively gotten worse and worse. The WORST part is that we are being lied to right to our faces. How could George Bush say that the war has made the world a better place on the 5th year since the start of this mess? Does he really think that we are idiots? 
In the past 5 years, I've seen things happen to my loved ones that I never thought could happen. The death threats, kidnappings, internal displacement, the fight for refugee status, the struggle, the exile, the murders... 
And thats just me, my family, our five-year history. 
All that and I'm not even talking about the psychological effects and the post-traumatic stress that every single Iraqi suffers from, born out of the "Shock and Awe" that they were forced to experience for a futile and ridiculous cause by the Bush Administration. As we were told. However, it would take the deaf, dumb and blind not to realize that this plan is rooted in history... Imperial history has been intertwined with Iraqi history for the past century. And it intends to be for the next century. This is a carefully studied plan, and they did not choose Iraq haphazardly. 
Read your history, educate yourself on the true intentions of American presence in Iraq.

In conclusion............ I'm bitter. 
I'm bitter because I still can't visit my soul's land. I'm bitter because I can no longer visit my home because there are strangers living in my house, going through my family photo albums and "acquiring" the only connection I still have to my homeland. 
I'm bitter because there is nothing I can do to help my family that is still struggling in Baghdad because none of our Arab Neighbors accept their presence anymore.
I'm bitter because our Arab Neighbors make it so damn apparent that those who did make it into their promise land have clearly overstayed their welcome. 
I'm bitter because I still can't taste, smell, and live within my soul's land. 
I'm bitter because there is nothing left in my soul's land.
Nothing.... no humanity, no pride, no cause, no respect, no innocence, no beauty, and no heartbeat.

I am a proud Iraqi woman, and I never thought I would ever say this. But I'm afraid that my bitterness has enveloped me beyond abayas and poosheyas. 

Iraq is dying and No One is looking for a cure to its disease.

No one is innocent. Not our neighbors in the East, the indifferent in the West, the American military, the US administrations (all of them), and especially not our own Iraqi brothers and sisters. Even our children have been stripped of their innocence. 

Utter and Total Speechlessness

I've been laying low on the blog tip for the past little while. I'm currently in the Middle East, between Amman and Damascus. I thought I would be able to write more since being here but I'm afraid its had an adverse effect. I've become a sponge, absorbing life here, trying to make sense of what Iraqi's are experiencing as refugees in both Amman and Damascus and the differences between those experiences. I'm not yet ready to write. I still feel like an outsider... Ajnabeeya. 

Monday, March 03, 2008

Inanna in Damascus

Inanna in Damascus

Welcome to my new painting, entitled Inanna in Damascus
I have created it for a very special exhibition that will be held at the University of Ottawa on March 08-15, 2008, entitled "Corrective Lenses: Challenging Representations of Women of Colour in Art."
I am very honoured to be a part of this show, the women involved are all inspiring and established in art, politics, academia and journalism... If any of you will be in or around Ottawa, make your way out to the U of O for the panel discussions and art starting at 4pm on Saturday March 08.

This is the breakdown of my piece so you could have a better idea of what exactly was going through my mind:

"Inanna in Damascus" is a reinterpretation of “The Slave Market” (1867) by Jean-Leon Gerome. It has been re-imagined as the modern day depiction of the Iraqi prostitutes that are being exploited daily in clubs, brothels and hotels around Damascus.
The original Orientalist painting by Gerome is an apparent representation of a transaction between slave merchant and buyer of the 'slave' woman in the centre. It is set in an unnamed Arab country, but its assumed that it existed in Gerome’s imaginary Orient. I chose this particular painting to re-imagine for numerous reasons. It is these same connections of pimp and client, the soldier and the politician, and the Arab businessman that existed in the 19th century and today.

In "Inanna in Damascus", I chose to expose the sex industry that is currently running rampant in Middle East due to the consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the resulting exodus of refugees. Syria is currently housing the most refugees out of Iraq's neighboring countries, with over 1.5 million Iraqi's taking refuge there. Prostitution has become both an industry and a form of slavery, with stories of Iraqi girls either getting sold by desperate families, duped by shady 'pimps' promising them decent jobs, or out of the woman's lack of options as a refugee in a without a breadwinner and without the right to hold a working position. Inanna, the female figure, is the Sumerian goddess of sexuality and war, one of the most revered goddesses of pre-Islamic Mesopotamia. The painting represents the Arab World's most undiluted oppressor of Women, and also their most frequent client, the Saudi 'Wahabi' man. Also present is the American soldier, a reminder of the War across the border, and of the chaos that ensued out of his governments presence in Iraq. Finally, the pimp stands behind Inanna, while all four stand in front of a Syrian cityscape in the Ottoman-esque courtyard of a nightclub aptly called "Al Hurman", defined as 'the forbidden' from Arabic, with its roots in the words "Hareem/Harem" (def: women's quarters), and "Haram" (def: sin). 

Below is the original painting by Jean Leon Gerome, "The Slave Market" from 1867.