Strolling the streets of Baghdad... in a bomb suit

Photo courtesy of Hussein Adil.
Photo courtesy of Hussein Adil.

A few weeks ago, a man sporting a bomb suit, like those worn by trained bomb disposal personnel, surprised passersby on Rachid Street, one of Baghdad’s busiest shopping districts. He did a little window shopping, chatted with children, and then sat at a café to drink tea, all under the amused eye of Hussein Adil, the artist who built the bomb suit.

The young Iraqi artist conceived the suit – and the performance, which he photographed – as a way to denounce the bombings and violence that have both ravaged his country and personally affected him.

“I almost died in an explosion that killed three of my friends”

Hussein Adil is a student at the Fine Arts Institute in Baghdad.

When I created this piece, I had the image in my mind of a man going about his daily business while wearing a bomb suit. I wanted to integrate this performative aspect to the piece because I wanted to see how people would react. Sadly, no one was all that shocked, because people here have gotten so used to car bombs and suicide bombings.

I got the idea for the suit after I learned from some Iraqi soldiers that the Iraqi security forces don’t have enough bomb suits, even though a quarter of the world’s landmines are in Iraq.

Photos courtesy of Hussein Adil.


Up until last year, I had never experienced a bombing myself. Sometimes, I heard the sounds of explosions from other parts of the city, but mostly, I just heard about them on the news.

But that all changed in May 2015, when I almost died in an explosion that killed three of my friends. It was a miracle that I survived. On that day, we were going to a café in the Karrada neighbourhood. My phone rang and I stopped to take the call. I told my friends to keep on going, that I’d be there in five minutes. Shortly thereafter, the bomb exploded about 100 metres from me. One of my friends who was killed was Ammar al-Shahbander, a journalist and human rights activist.

Some of my inspiration for the bomb suit came from this tragedy. However, my message is not that I think that every Iraqi citizen should be given a bomb suit – that wouldn’t solve the violence ripping our country apart. Besides, the suit I built isn’t actually bomb-proof. It is just an artist’s representation.

I created this suit with a message in mind. For me, it’s meant to protect against the sectarianism that is eating away at our society. It’s also meant to protect against the ideas that divide us in Iraq, because these divisions are responsible for the war that is tearing us apart.

For the past few months, there have been weekly protests in Baghdad where thousands of Iraqis take to the streets to denounce sectarian violence and corruption. That said, these protests haven’t achieved much of a response. It’s as if people are tired of slogans. Like those protestors, I also wanted to make a statement but I wanted to do it in a different, artistic, way. I hope that it will strike a chord with people and make them reflect on these issues a little more.



The bomb suit will be exhibited next April at the Tarkib Contemporary Art Festival.

According to a study done by the American scientic journal Plos Medecine, more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by bombs in Iraq since 2011.