[Blog post written by Beth Knowles who came along to our event to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War and International Women's Day in partnership with the Imperial War Museum in March 2013. You can listen to BBC Women's Hour coverage of the event here].
On International Women’s Day it was all too easy to get caught up in bunting, cakes and networking with the ‘girls’, whilst the international perspective of the day was lost in swathes of pink. The Abundance Lab’s event Through the lens; Women in Iraq 10 years after the Invasion, leapt out from hundreds of events in Manchester with well-timed, much-needed international poignancy.
I was fourteen when war broke out in Iraq, I remember watching bombs erupt in Baghdad on the BBC that first night, the first British bombs I’d seen fall on someone else’s land and I couldn’t help but feel terror for people caught up in someone else’s war. Ten years on I’ve become desensitised to stories of car bombs in Baghdad, Al-Mutanabbi Street meant nothing to me. This was my perspective on Iraq after a decade of war, until I saw a country through the eyes of some incredible women, thanks to Eugenie Dolberg and Houzan Mahmoud who spoke at the event.
Eugenie Dolberg, British photojournalist, trained Iraqi women to capture their lives through their lenses and showed a picture taken by a woman of her home country devastated by war tells a story the BBC could never capture. There were no women garbed in black burkas wailing, there were bookstores blown up by hatred on Al-Mutanabbi Street and the hope of a truly liberated Iraq burnt beside them.
Houzan Mahmoud, tireless campaigner for justice and freedom for the women of Iraq, portrayed a decade dominated by imperialism and religious fundamentalism. Where cinemas once stood and philosophical debate raged over coffee, bullets now scar buildings and fear dominates minds.
But there are women. Women standing up against injustice and fighting for the future they believe in. Women fighting for their own future through grassroots activism, photojournalism and powerful protest. This is Iraq. An Iraq that is anything but liberated. An Iraq that will be set free, not by invaders, but by its women. This is the real Iraq I now see through the eyes of my sisters.