Celebrating another side of Iraq, on Instagram
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Weary of the media portrayal of Iraq, which he says reduces the country to a place of war, killings and terrorism, a 25-year-old Iraqi amateur photographer decided to show a different view of his homeland. On his Instagram account, he publishes snapshots that celebrate the daily victory of life over death.
After the last terror attack in Baghdad, on July 3, 292 people were left dead; the Islamic State claimed responsibility, and Nawar Tamawi was unsure if he ought to continue his work. He even began to question the value of proposing an alternate view of Iraq. But after several days of mourning, he decided to continue publishing photos he had taken over the past few years of another Iraq, a peaceful Iraq, the one he dreams of and which, in certain areas, still exists.
"With my photos, I'm recreating a full-colour Iraq, in a reality that's black and white”
I was born and raised in Iraq. One month ago, I moved to Canada. I started photographing Baghdad in 2011, and publishing on Instagram in 2012. At the time, I didn't have much occasion to travel. Later, I had the good fortune to discover the rest of Iraq through my job as an engineer. I was sent on projects in Erbil, Najaf, Karbala, etc. Each time, I took the opportunity to take a few photos on my phone, which I then published on my Instagram account.
Palm tree isn't just a tree. I see my people in it. They way it looks, its height, the conditions and the circumstances it can bear. despite all of that it gives sweet product. So do #Iraqis. In Iraq's date-production heyday, official estimates put the number of palm trees at 30 millions, but decades of war and water salinity have cut that figure so dramatically that the #UnitedNations agriculture mission considers date-palm rehabilitation an urgent national priority. I love palm trees and I love taking pictures of it. But seeing it suffering makes me feel sad as I know when palm trees are suffering my people are too, see it's somehow connected. #EverydayIraq
Since 2003 [Editor's note: The American invasion of Iraq began in March 2003], our daily life has been punctuated by war, terror attacks and kidnappings. In 2011, things calmed down somewhat in Iraq, but the war went on in Iraqis' minds. As for myself, I refused the notion of living in a war zone. I wanted to see Iraq differently. This was also a way for me to create a different Iraq, the Iraq I dreamed of, the one that existed in the 1970s, the one that began disappearing with the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) and all the other wars that followed. In a way, with my photos I'm recreating a full-colour Iraq, in a reality that's black and white.
"This is our Passion. We're fond of classic bikes. We pimp it by ourselves. We started before 5 years, we were only 17 now we're 117. This sport is all about showing off unlike racing bikes, speed isn't an important thing. We enjoy it when people take photos to us when we're riding our bikes it make them happy so do we. It's something new in #Baghdad. We struggled little bit at the beginning as people always say "Are you Americans? where you from? " - we are proud #Iraqis. We used to face problems to get through the checkpoints. Now our club is the only club considered as a friendly club to the Traffic Police we celebrate with them during ceremonies. Our message is that we're young, living and we want to enjoy life." -Member of #IraqBikers #EverydayIraq #BaghdadShoppingFestival
“We keep on living despite it all – that's what I wanted to emphasise”
In Baghdad and on my trips, I made a point of photographing the happiest moments around me. We keep on living despite it all – that's what I wanted to emphasise and communicate, notably for the Iraqis of the diaspora, who don't have occasion to come to Iraq and who imagine their country only through the lens of the news media. And incidentally, many of them don't speak Arabic. That's why I write all my comments in English. A lot of them write to me, telling me they love discovering Iraq's beauty and the resilience of its inhabitants, who choose life over death.
“When they'd tell me I wasn't allowed to take a photo of a checkpoint, I’d ask a soldier to take a photo for me”
It's not always so easy to take photos. The city of Baghdad, for instance, is covered in checkpoints. You're not allowed to take photos near them. When they'd tell me I wasn't allowed, I'd ask the soldier posted there to take a photo for me. Sometimes I'd take a photo by holding my camera in such a way that they couldn't tell I was taking pictures. In some parts of the city it was easier. I'd explain what I was doing and they'd let me go ahead. I've even sometimes been asked to take photos. In the souk, for example, a man suggested that I take a picture of him.
Adnan Al Jawhari's store was our last station when we visited #Souk Alsafafeer last Week, he was sitting in his store before he saw us, he immediately shouted : come in ! don't be afraid, don't buy just come in and see me, i'm bored and you don't have to buy anything, let's just have a little chit chat before we close. While we are getting into the store he warmly welcomed us and said I was a friend of the elegant Faisal II - the last king of Iraq before it was turned into a republic,he pointed out at the wall full of his pictures with famous people and celebrities and articles about him in newspapers, look at this picture it's me with Al-Shahroora Sabah when she visited #Baghdad in the 70s ( A famous Lebanese singer who died the last week), "look at this" he showed me his pictures with sorrow when he was a bodybuilder and how ripped he was, it's all gone he said. And eventually he showed me his picture with his Idol Abdul Haleem Hafiz( #Egyptian Icon) and then he sang for us one of his songs, and thanked us for listening him, he's still living in that beautiful era and sweet times of the 70s. He was so kind and lovely and while we were ready to leave he said in English !!: " you're too nice I like you, tell your friends about me and tell them I was a friend of the king, bring them whenever you can, we can have great times" if you will ever consider visiting the souk you definitely have to pass by him ! #everydayiraq #Baghdad #Iraq
“Today, these photos are also my memories”
One of my favourite places in Baghdad is Qishla park. It's an historic site that dates from the Ottoman era. Every Friday, people go there to share their passions – they talk about poetry, politics, history. It's an old tradition that goes back to the era of the Abbasid empire (in place from 750 to 1258) and that has continued up through today. Life goes on, and is vibrant, despite the terror attacks that keep happening in the capital.
Today, these photos are also my memories. I've taken them with me to Canada, and I hope to be able to share them somewhere other than Instagram, in exhibitions, for example. I'm working towards that.
The gate of Al-Madrasah Al Mustansiriya, during the time this school been built, Baghdad was the intellectual city of the world and that school used to be the Oxford of that era, where everyone was allowed to live and study peacefully, Muslims, Jews, christians and even Doubters. #VintageBaghdad #OldIraq #everydayiraq