Baghdad, Iraq : Mon 25th Jan 2009 : A girl cries after three bombs exploded within about 10 minutes during Baghdad’s afternoon rush, killing her mother. Despite touted security improvements prior to the US Military withdrawal. Explosions and political violence remain a daily reality for Iraqis.
[ EPF 2012 FINALIST ]
ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
My father left Iraq in the 1970s. He would not have recognised it, by the time I had gotten there. It was 2009 and Iraq had nearly car-bombed, kidnapped and executed itself into oblivion.
‘Cultures that may seem as durable as stone’ wrote Anthony Shadid, ‘can break like glass, leaving all the things that held them together unattended.’
And Iraq was broken. It’s shattered pieces unattended by the humming of generators and of U.S. drones overhead. Trust lay only in your family, in your tribe, in your sect. If you were lucky enough to be part of a sectarian majority, it lay in your neighborhood – now purged of rival tribal threats, both real and perceived.
The myth of Iraq a proud country, had stopped in my father’s time. Asir al thahabi. The golden age. Before Saddam, before the eight-year-war with Iran, before Kuwait, before sanctions, the myth before the fall. Today’s Iraq is many fractured pieces. A simmering federation of Sunni, Kurd, nationalistic and pro-Iranian Shia, whose first civil war has ended, whose second seems just at the corner. It’s a nation of many nations, lots of little failed states underneath the veil of a much larger one.They are identities by no means new. They have been laying dormant since the fall of the Ottomans, created alongside the artificial state carved out by the victorious imperial powers.
The goal of my project is to confront the multiple identities in Iraq today and examine their relationship to the greater Iraqi state. I have been living and working in Iraq since 2009 searching for a glimpse of the country that my father had left behind. I can’t see it. Perhaps it had never existed in the first place. A necessary nostalgia for better days, during such consistently disappointing ones. I don’t know yet.
If it does exist, however, it is within these smaller communities. Each vying for a future in the new Iraq. The project I am trying to fund, is an attempt to build a cultural narrative of the new Iraq.
A family watches a new amusement park ride in Baghdad’s Zawra Park.
KHOR AZ ZUBAYR: Iraq: 28th April 2011: An Iraqi military officer watch over an Iraqi armed forces training exercise in southern Iraq. As the US withdraws, it leaves behind an Iraqi military whose culture and privilege strongly resembles the Baathist one it tried so hard to destroy.
Baghdad, Iraq : Tue 12th Oct 2010 :..Baghdadis enjoying a show at the recently opened New Vision 4D cinema in Baghdad’s Zayuna district.
A young couple in their bumper car in “Basraland,” a recently opened amusement park in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Iraq’s second city, Basra is attracting development and foreign investment. It has become relatively stable. Security, however, has come at the expense of cosmopolitanism. It is now almost exclusively Shiite Muslim, it’s Sunni, Christian and Mandaean communities have dwindled to near near extinction.
Former offices of Tikrit Provincial Council: IRAQ: Niyazi Mimur, retches after revisiting his office in the aftermath of a violent attack in Sunni Tikrit. The gunmen, wearing police uniforms and suicide vests, went door to door, tossing hand grenades and spraying gunfire. Mimur, a local politician, escaped after emptying his .45 handgun and jumping out of a second story window. 60 of his colleagues were killed and 90 wounded. On average, 12 people meet a violent death every day in Iraq. This attack is part of a recently emerging pattern of political violence where gunmen brazenly attack high profile targets, take hostages and detonate suicide vests.
Karrada. Inner Karrada, BAGHDAD. The city’s main pedestrian shopping avenue, and the most cosmopolitan district in the Iraqi capital.
Untold Thousands. Baghdad, IRAQ: 16th Feburary 2011: A non profit organization in Baghdad’s Shoula neighborhood offers support and donates crutches and prosthetics to children injured by violence since the 2003 US-led invasion. Untold thousands have been wounded by rocket attacks, car-bombs and street fighting.
Ashura Fire Ceremony in Najaf. Shiite ceremony during Ashura in the holy city of Najaf. The city is now an economic, cultural and political hub in Iraq tied to the ascent of Iraq’s Shiites, once maligned and now Iraq’s most powerful community.
Cable car in Kurdistan. ERBIL, Iraq: Fri 28th Jan 2011: A cable car carries a family over the city of Erbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish north. Long the safest and most accessible city in Iraq, Kurdish Erbil is awash with new housing developments and foreign investors. A four bed-room home can set you back as much as $500,000.
Baghdad’s Lower East side. Men drink alcohol, smoke nargileh and watch belly dancers in Abu Nuwass. Baghdad’s Lower East Side, Abu Nuwass is a riverside tree-lined street of seedy liquor-serving nightclubs and, fish restaurants and alcohol. Business is booming.
Family in Basra Center Supermarket
Iraqi Military photograph demonstrators. Ramadi, IRAQ: An Iraqi military policemen photographed demonstrators during anti-government demonstration in Iraq’s Anbar province. Once occupied by American troops, the country today looks increasingly occupied by an authoritarian Iraqi military.
After the ritual.
Ayman Oghanna, 26, is an independent photographer and journalist working in the Arab World. A British-Iraqi, born and raised in London, he now lives out of Istanbul. His photography, writing and multimedia stories have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Sunday Review, Businessweek, The Guardian, The Economist, Time and Vice Magazine. He is currently based between Istanbul and Iraq, where he continues to work on ‘Yesterday’s War, Today’s Iraq’ an on going project on life in the new Iraq.