Iraqi writers, journalists and intellectuals unleashed their anger against the Ministry of Culture, after Saadoun al-Dulaimi, a military figure who is acting minister of defense, was appointed minister of culture. One of the writers, Daoud al-Basri said, “The Iraqi Ministry of Culture is not led by cultured people, but by military men. What kind of military men? Imagine that the old Baath regime used to exalt power and violence with its slogan known as ‘The pen and rifle are one and the same.’ Today, as though times have not changed, here comes an Iraqi general, who has nothing to do with culture and its people, as minister of culture.”
Besides the “annihilation” that the supposedly “illuminating role” of Iraqi culture is undergoing because of the government, freedom of expression is being threatened by powerful religious leaders and guides. Religious guide Mohammed Yaakoubi strongly condemned the Iraqi government for holding the Baghdad Capital of Arab Culture events at the same time as the commemoration of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima al-Zahra.
By the same token, an official in the culture sector was fired after a theatrical show was performed that necessitated, for artistic purposes, the appearance of an actress in a way that suggested she was stripping. This indicates the narrow-mindedness of the major cultural organizations in the country.
Like others, Shafiq said, “Baghdad being the capital of Arab culture is a big lie. Culture is currently in the hands of people who ignore the meaning of the word and the significance of a cultured person’s role.” Many poets, artists and cultured people in Iraq share Shafiq’s view. However, their cries are in vain since the sound of violence is the only one that can be currently heard and is drowning all other voices.
Ali Abdulameer is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. A writer, journalist and TV presenter residing in Amman and Washington, he was editor-in-chief of a number of cultural magazines and Iraqi newspapers, and was the managing editor of Iraqi news in the Arabic-language American Al-Hurrah. Abdulameer presented a show entitled "Seven Days" from 2004 to 2010. He is currently working as a correspondent for Al-Hayat.
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