What it’s like to live in Iraq in 2019


“I live in a country where death hunts us every day, my dear”, she said to me the first time we talked.

Her name is Fatimah, a 26-year-old artist, and she has a lot to tell about what it’s like to live in Iraq today.

Fatimah was born in Diwaniyah, one of the most conservative places of the region, where women still don’t have access to education and don’t receive an equal salary, despite working long hours.

“But my parents raised me in a very unusual way. They gave me full freedom of studying, working, and expressing myself with no fear.

As a result she then graduated in Art at Qadisiyah University and became a performance artist, winning several awards at many festivals all around Iraq.

“My very first victory was to go on a stage in a theatre and perform in front of hundreds of men, expressing ideas and concepts with my body – the same female body that in my society is often a shame, a burden.”

Since then, Fatimah started to speak up with the only weapon she had: art.

I want the world to know that in Iraq we don’t die only because of war. We also die because of negligence and lack of control. The government often turns a blind eye to the constant chaos we live in.”

A clear example of this situation is the tragedy that happened in Mosul last March. Back then, a ferry with a capacity of 50 people was loaded with 200. Eventually the ferry sank into the Tigris river, and tens of people drowned. In addition, water in Iraq is still highly contaminated, and car crashes and fire accidents occur on a daily basis.

Fatimah is also focused on another ever-lasting problem of the region: sectarianism and hatred among different ethnic groups.

“Did you know that in February the British troops discovered 50 severed heads in Baghuz? They belonged to Yazidi women, the sex slaves of ISIS. The Islamic State had cut their heads off and dumped them in dustbins, as if they were garbage. The news didn’t give much attention to this, but I will be the voice of the Yazidi women who can’t talk.

She then created an art performance to tell the world about the brutal massacre, involving other international artists like the Thai Vasan Sitthiket.

Later she also made various performances to reflect the reality of women in Iraqi society, and today she is giving lectures on Theatre Arts at the Girls Institute of Fine Arts.
She teaches young girls to step out of old beliefs, trying to open their minds and sowing the seeds of freedom.

For Fatimah, art can help to educate, to make people think. It’s the only outlet she has to awaken consciences and change things.

“People used to call Iraq ‘the cradle of civilisation’, or ‘the land of wonders’. Today, our country is like a sick body in desperate need of love and cures. But this sick body is inhabited by real people, with real faces and stories – and we won’t stop fighting.”

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