For the original article in Italian click here
A trial run for a centre of independent information through art concentrated on the territories in conflict in the Middle East took place nearly one month ago in Teatro di Nascosto in Volterra, Italy. They were days rich with exchange of information through improvisations, film screenings, storytelling and writing.
We faced a couple of serious problems: the first were the difficulties in obtaining visas for our nine guests from Iraq and two from Turkey/Turkish Kurdistan; and the second was the risk that if the name or photo of one in particular of our guests from Turkey was published, this person might end up in prison on returning to Turkey.
This was a guest who holds a significant position in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, a party from which a number of members have already been imprisoned after parliamentary immunity was lifted from them. As a result, we were not able to explicitly publicise the identity of our guests.
All the guests, audience members, high school students were searched on entering the venue and were made to leave their mobile phones at the entrance in order that no one could take any photographs. It seemed like a game, but it was a vital measure of protection. It was also interesting because it created an atmosphere wherein we had the audience’s full concentration, without the distraction of a mobile phone in their hands.
I decided to return to Iraq to see and be with the members of the international group of Teatro di Nascosto who had not been able to get a visa, and to live their situation, their life as it is today in Iraq. Articolo 21 will publish fragments of my diary.
I arrived this morning at Hanaa Edwards’ house, from the organisation, Al Amal [hope]. She tells me about her latest projects that will bring forward bills in parliament. In the next weeks a bill regarding children’s rights will be proposed, and bills countering violence against women (which are very difficult to pass) and others that are anti-discrimination and working towards diversity are in preparation.
They have started out on the difficult path towards the division between state and religion, a long-term project that involves many young people who are motivated to participate in the activities and festivities of other religious communities, sharing moments of Christian, Sunni, Shiite life, in churches and in mosques, trying to find new ways of living religion post-ISIS. Many are concerned by the fact that the Shiite militia, under the influence of Iran, have requested to become officially part of the Iraqi army. What will happen when the war against ISIS is over?
This evening, an event in the restaurant of Zain Mohammed, Al Faisaliya, organised by Baghdad Peace Carnival of which Noof Assi and Zain himself together with other young people of Baghdad were the founders, a movement for peace that started small in 2007 and which now has around 17 000 followers. Every year, they celebrate a great event with music, theatre on the International Day for Peace in Karade, in Baghad.
Last year, 800 students from the high schools of Volterra brought the dreams of Iraqi youth into Piazza di Priori in Volterra, Italy, on the same day in support of this event.
When they start the celebrations for the end of Ramadan, I will be in Mosul, together with Mohamed Daraji, a director well-known for his documentaries and films, and ten buses full of other people from all over Iraq.
We will take 20,000 books to the university of Mosul and in the evening there will be a full programme of films, music and even my own monologue of 20 minutes in the part of the city that is liberated, destroyed, while in the other part, the conflict continues. “A feast for Mosul” is the name of the event, a celebration for the end of Ramadan.
It will not be easy in the next days.... Hours of travelling from Baghdad to Mosul under strict security regulations, the heat, travelling towards a city in war. Only a few days ago two journalists were killed (a French woman and a Kurdish man); last week 287 civilians were killed in the occupied part of Mosul where around 200 000 people still live under ISIS.
Over these past days, I have met a woman from Mosul who is fleeing ISIS, who is condemned to death. She was imprisoned by ISIS in Mosul but managed to escape. She watched, on video, the execution of her brother. ISIS is looking for her. I am living between the hunger of young people for a free future without violence in Baghdad and the war in Mosul with unthinkably cruel stories from those living under ISIS “caliphate”.
The event with the Peace Carnival volunteers was beautiful! Nearly 200 young people, music, food and dinner, colours, discussions... An atmosphere of great energy, hope for future projects...