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Iraq ten years on: Welcome to Baghdad, 'Arab Capital of Culture' 2013

Ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad, the Iraqi capital is designated as "Arab Capital of Culture" for 2013. The Arab Capital of Culture is an initiative taken by the Arab League under the UNESCO Cultural Capitals Program to promote and celebrate Arab culture and encourage cooperation in the Arab region. It's a gallant opportunity to remind the world that there being the different face with a rich culture for Baghdad than car bombs and kidnappings.

However, there are still many problems which confront us. At the Baghdad's National Theatre, like most other public buildings in Baghdad, is surrounded by 10ft high concrete blast walls. And rather than a few ticket collectors manning around the entrance, there are half a dozen soldiers, all on hand because of threats in the past from religious militias, whose general approach is preventing the performing of arts.

In their eyes, even tonight's play, a family-friendly comedy that looks an Iraqi version of Run for Your Wife, counts as unacceptably radical theatre, for the simple reason that it involves men treading the boards alongside women.

"Everyone in this office, without exceptions, has received death threats over the years, but because we are all artists with a message to get out, we have kept going," says the theatre's deputy director, Ismael al-Juboori.

Now, after a long period in the shadows, Iraq's artistic and cultural scene is about to blossom once more. The Capital of Culture project in Bagdad will put on 24 films produced in or around Baghdad, including nine long-story movies, nine short films and six documentaries.

Furthermore, the event includes music and dance performances, photography exhibitions, as well as folk arts and crafts shows.

It is the latest in a series of efforts by Iraq to raise its global reliability after long war and sanctions which led to its international isolation, economically as well as culturally. The city hosted the Arab League summit in 2012, and it is also scheduled to host football’s Gulf Cup in 2015 at Al-Basrah city southern of Iraq.

By Hamoody (Engineer)

May 23, 2013 in Iraq |