In 2006, al-Qaida began to ramp up these tensions with targeted terror attacks. “A lot of people have asked me why I came back – everything is just a big mess here. But even if life would have been simpler as a refugee in Europe, Iraq is full of inspiring stories that I want to tell.” Today, she works as a filmmaker, and her current project tells the story of three Arab women fleeing their home.

Eighty eight projects applied for Goethe Institut grants, which were only intended to provide seed funding, says Thomas Koessler. He is the head of the Goethe office in Iraq, which is based in Erbil. In the end, 24 were chosen. "The funding pot is not huge; we had a total of 80,000 euros to distribute. It was more about providing impetus, and saying: you can get something off the ground quickly here, without too much bureaucracy."

Spotlight Iraq an on-going project

Spotlight Iraq intends to fund more projects in the coming year, but the Goethe Institut sees its mission increasingly in motivating Iraqi partners to support exciting ideas themselves. “It isn’t the case that there isn’t any money in Iraq generally. The money is there, including in the Iraqi culture ministry.” The problem is that the processes for awarding financial support are far from transparent.

Hussein Muttar in Erbil (photo: Christopher Resch)
Hussein Muttar: "People aren’t going to go home, we won’t run away. There are laws here in Iraq, too, we’re not in the jungle, we don’t live in a dictatorship any longer and Saddam Hussein is no longer with us. We aren’t just going to give up our rights"

Money trickles away – this is an everyday problem in Iraq, which is theoretically a rich country. Corruption, religious divisions, unemployment and lack of prospects: the problems in Iraq have been the same for a long time. The artists here in the Ala Center have either incorporated them into their work, or are affected by them themselves: many have graduated from Iraqi universities or are still studying, but can only dream of landing a well-paid job.

The spirit of Tahrir Square

The themes of the revolutionaries in the capital and other Iraqi cities are here in this room, too, finding their way into every conversation. The event was originally supposed to be held in Baghdad, but the security situation there was so unclear that the Goethe Institut moved it to Erbil at short notice.

The filmmaker Yasir Kareem regrets this fact, but also says: "That’s just one of the many contradictions in us, and in our country." In a short, fiery speech, he invokes the spirit of Tahrir Square: "To my mind, we’ve already won. On Tahrir Square I see the Iraq that I want, a homeland for all of us, at last." Huda al-Kadhimi agrees: "Everyone is united on Tahrir Square – here, we have finally overcome the divisions between Sunni and Shia or between north and south."

The resignation of prime minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi is the first step, says Hussein Muttar, a 21-year-old student. But others have to follow, because of the massacre in Nasiriyah, because of the tear-gas cartridges deliberately fired at people’s heads, because of the brutal violence of groups supporting Iran since day one of the revolution.

"People aren’t going to go home, we won’t run away. There are laws here in Iraq, too, we’re not in the jungle, we don’t live in a dictatorship any longer and Saddam Hussein is no longer with us. We aren’t just going to give up our rights."

Christopher Resch

© Qantara.de 2019

Translated from the German by Ruth Martin

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