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Culture is important in situations of crisis, violence and war. It not only promotes reconciliation but can also help overcome traumatic experiences. Literature and the act of writing have the ability to shape or change society, opening up new ways of thinking and talking about a range of social issues that are often marginalized or ignored in the public sphere.
Unfortunately, women writers and artists in Iraq and elsewhere continue to face discrimination in various ways. They are often unable to participate in events, their work is ignored or even plagiarized, and in many cases, they are under extreme pressure and fear for their lives. Thus, Iraqi women have faced war, civil war, and extreme violence for nearly 40 years. Hanaa, a participant in our writing workshops, hid her stories in the oven and could not leave the house during the Islamic State’s years-long occupation of Mosul.
elbarlament, with funding from the German Foreign Office, held writing workshops for over 200 women from all regions of Iraq from 2016-2018. These participants have now become socially active in their communities. They organize literary circles, submit their texts to literary festivals, founded their own writers’ association and now run their own writing workshops.
In 2019, 13 Iraqi women writers were trained as trainers of writing workshops in a Training of Trainers program (under the Foreign Office-funded project “Civil Society Cultural Initiatives in Iraq 2019”). During the program, they were accompanied by the Lebanese-Ecuadorian artist duo, Rajwa Tohmé and Daniela Delgado Viteri. The resulting portraits, along with poems written by the women writers portrayed, were displayed as a photo exhibition in the atrium of the German Foreign Office in December 2019, opened by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering. In addition, a German-Arabic book with portraits and poems was produced. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition could only be shown one more time so far – at the Women’s Literature Festival in Tunis in January 2020.
During the German Foreign Ministry’s “Lange Nacht der Ideen” that took place in May 2021, this exhibition was presented digitally. In addition, two of the female authors were present to read their poems. Visitors got a glimpse of the tremendous talent of Iraqi women writers, as well as of their willpower and strength to pursue what gives them hope and joy of life – writing.
Kultur ist wichtig in Krisen-, Gewalt- und Kriegssituationen. Sie fördert nicht nur die Versöhnung, sondern kann auch helfen, traumatische Erfahrungen zu überwinden. Literatur und der Akt des Schreibens haben die Fähigkeit, eine Gesellschaft zu gestalten oder zu verändern, sie eröffnen neue Wege, über eine Reihe von gesellschaftlichen Themen zu denken und zu sprechen, die in der Öffentlichkeit oft marginalisiert oder ignoriert werden. Auf diese Weise fördert sie Demokratie, Pluralismus und Redefreiheit. Kultur hilft, Krisen zu überwinden und neue Gesellschaften zu gestalten. Es ist offensichtlich, wie wichtig kulturelle Verständigung in multiethnischen Staaten wie dem Irak ist. Text, Prosa, Musik und bildende Kunst sind Formen der Kommunikation.