by Nazli Tarzi.
Turn the clock back thirty years and imagine Iraq’s bursting theatres and teahouses, its shop-fronts misted in argeela smoke and the tunes of Baghdadi maqam colouring its streets. This energetic cityscape is near impossible to find today in downtown Baghdad, a shadow of its former self.
The devastation Iraq has suffered is not simply infrastructural or political. Iraqi culture, a site where national politics has long been contested and re-imagined, remains at risk of decaying.
This was particularly so during America’s 2003 occupation, when the production of literature, art, and film nearly disappeared altogether. The so-called liberators bulldozed public and government spaces where cultural production was once encouraged—even if confined to a pan-Arab framework by the former Ba’athist government. Intellectual life since America’s promotion of democracy remains largely unchanged.
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