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February 23, 2007 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 330

The Other Face of Iraq

February 23, 2007 | By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli
Iraq | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 330

Introduction

For most people, the images of Iraq are of a country mired in sectarian violence or civil war - a country suffering car bombs, random killing, kidnapping, ethnic cleansing - a country in collective despair. There is validity to these images.

However, alongside these tragic daily occurrences Iraq has its other face, a face of life and a degree of normalcy. This other face of Iraq is reflected in a series of pictures published by Halim Salman in his two monthly magazines published in London. The first is al-Tab’a al-Jadida [The New Publication] which, in terms of layout, is close to Life magazine or to the French “Paris Match.” The other monthly, titled al-Hilwa [The Beautiful Woman], is a pictorial magazine for women. Halim has a news website al-Rafidayn (www.alrafidayn.com ) which disseminates up-to-date news from Iraq in Arabic seven days a week.

The 19 pictures selected for publication are grouped into five categories: confronting terrorism (3); daily life (7); education goes on (4); modernity and tradition (2); and music and dance (3).

Confronting Terrorism

The top picture is that of students emerging from the University of al-Mustansariya in Baghdad under the caption: "We will not succumb to terrorism. We will continue to attend (school), and this is our answer." The middle picture shows a well-groomed young lady going by the wreckage of a car bomb. The bottom picture is that of a newly-wed couple against a background of a blown-up building

Daily Life

Life goes on and it always does under the worst of circumstances. Looking at the pictures from top to bottom: (1) employees emerging from an office building with women in both modern and traditional garb; two women working in a bank; a makeup parlor; grooming a bride by a man (possible only in some sections of secular Baghdad); a romantic couple; girls schmoozing; and playing soccer with soccer shoes, boots and bare feet

Education Goes On

The top two pictures is that of literacy education as one can observe the age differentials of those attending classes; the third is a classroom for boys[note the sign to the left of the clock which reads “Work is Honour;” finally girls in school uniform taking a lesson in geometry (note the ruler on the right).

Modernity and Tradition

The two pictures provide a vivid illustration of contrasting collective wedding styles and perhaps also contrasting social strata. The modern wedding is perhaps that of well-off Baghdadi families. The traditional wedding is arranged by religious groups for relatively young and poor girls. Many faces are completely covered and it is not uncommon for these young girls to meet their husbands for the first time during the first moments of intimacy.

Music and Dance

The School of Music and Ballet opened in Baghdad in 1969. Like other cultural institutions, it was looted in April 2003 and the mirrors used for training dancers were smashed. Nevertheless, many of the former students returned to pursue their training in music and dance. The top two pictures show young ballet dancers while the bottom one is that of a choir of boys and girls.

*Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program.

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