Our Baghdad More Beautiful: A Standing Protest To Rid Baghdad Of Sectarian Posters
Yalla – Baghdad
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the women’s committee at the Ministry of Culture organised a protest against the sectarian posters called “Our Baghdad Is More Beautiful”. The event was held close to the Personal Affairs Court and Fine Arts Institute in Karkh, opposite Zawraa Park. Participating groups included the Iraqi Women’s League, the Iraq Women’s Association, Women’s Committee at the Ministry of Culture, Academies from the Children Culture House, House of Culture and Publication Kurdish and intellectuals. They tore down the sectarian posters from the walls of government institutions despite the presence of the security forces in the area and the fear they instill.
Civil activist Afrah Shawqi spoke to Yalla.
“The protest’s main objective was to demonstrate against the posters on the walls of Baghdad, which provoke reactions against women, classify those who don’t cover as Kafirs [non-believers], degrades them, and incites violence against Iraqi women.”
“Iraqi women continue to challenge, work, be creative and active despite all the pressures they suffer, and the difficult situations they have been through. Iraqi women take pride in themselves and are inspiring role models in the Arab world and the west.
“We expect the government to value our efforts, support and encourage women, not to degrade them through these unacceptable posters.
“There were those who tried to ignite sedition on the streets. Our Baghdad Is More Beautiful will remain beautiful, because women love beauty, and they want to have a real existence in the country.”
During the protest Shawqi demanded that corrupt officials are held accountable, and demanded action for displaced women, widows, and orphans. She said that for women who have experienced struggle, it’s unacceptable to see another woman on the streets struggling.
Shawqi confirmed that the Director of the Fine Arts Institute supported the degrading posters and refused to give for permission for them to gather nearby. “The fact that he allowed posters on the walls is a strange contradiction. He is not supposed to allow the walls of the institute to be defaced with degrading, hateful images of women. Today we tore down theses posters.”
“The unfair rules unjustly deprive women of their rights, despite Iraqi women being well known for their fighting spirit and ability. Iraqi women have a long history in politics and other fields but since 2003 we have not been allowed to perform our role appropriately,” journalist Rajaa Hamid told Yalla. “Iraqi women have been targeted in recent years by slogans that class certain women as kafirs. These posters are the work of Daesh [ISIL] sympathisers, and we are against violence against women. Our rights have been suppressed by the shadows of unjust rules.”
Dr. Fatin al-Jarrah, a director of children’s plays, considers the general atmosphere in Iraq as not only extremist but charged with tension as a result of some trying to impose their views on others.
“The latest phenomenon is posters and leaflets that incite violence against women and compromise their rights. The excuse for this is that they are supported by religion and Islamic Sharia, and they are hung on the walls of the court in Karkh and the Fine Arts Institute,” she said. “It’s an unhealthy phenomenon and must be ended.”
Al-Jarrah explained that it’s clear that the offices, which are part of the Ministry of Culture, are male dominated and have a different stance because they have limited the numbers of women in the offices who weren’t allowed to attend the demonstrations.
“Not throughout the ministry but in some of its offices, different individual restricted women from leaving to attend the demonstrations,” she said. “Marginalising women in Iraqi society is very clear. Maybe they highlight the quota in parliament and other things, but this doesn’t mean much because the Parliament isn’t so important. The real opportunity for women to play a significant role is in the government departments.”
Al-Jarrah laments attempts to limit the role of women in places such as the offices of the Ministry of Culture, which is not the fault of the minister or the deputy, both of whom support women’s right. However, there are departments that attempt to limit the development of the role of women and their right to enjoy personal freedoms in expressing views and others.
The Director of the Fine Arts Institute called security authorities and asked the women protesting near the institute to leave the area. “I swear by Allah that tomorrow they will place 2.000 posters,” said someone nearby.