Photographics · Projects · Social/Politics

Temporary Shelters by Henk Wildschut

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Close to the port of Calais there is an area encompassing a few hundred square metres that is known as ‘The Jungle’. The people occupying this area have travelled many miles to get there, and their journey is still not at an end. Calais is the departure point for the final and most desirable crossing. There are thousands of people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria, all in search of a better life in Britain, the destination of their dreams.

While they await the opportunity to make the great crossing, they build temporary shelters: tent-like structures made of waste material from the immediate surroundings of the camp. In the best cases, the cultural characteristics of the country of origin can barely be distinguished in these.

The way in which the primary requirements of life are manifested in such shelters forms the leitmotif of this documentary photography project, for which I travelled extensively to Calais, the south of Spain, Dunkirk, Malta, Patras and Rome. For me, the image of the shelter – wherever it is in Europe – became the symbol of the misery these refugees experience.

All photos and text by Henk Wildschut. See project HERE

Education · Public Space · Social/Politics

What happened to Iraqi universities under US occupation?

As the last American soldiers left Iraq in December, so, too, did many of the journalists who had covered the war, leaving little in the way of media coverage of post-war Iraq. While there were some notable exceptions — including two fine articles by MIT’s John Tirman that asked how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US invasion — overall the American press published few articles on the effects of the occupation, especially the consequences for Iraqis.

As a college professor, I have a special interest in what happened to Iraqi universities under US occupation. The story is not pretty.

Until the 1990s, Iraq had perhaps the best university system in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein’s regime used oil revenues to underwrite free tuition for Iraqi university students — churning out doctors, scientists, and engineers who joined the country’s burgeoning middle class and anchored development. Although political dissent was strictly off-limits, Iraqi universities were professional, secular institutions that were open to the West, and spaces where male and female, Sunni and Shia mingled. Also the schools pushed hard to educate women, who constituted 30 percent of Iraqi university faculties by 1991. (This is, incidentally, better than Princeton was doing as late as 2009.) With a reputation for excellence, Iraqi universities attracted many students from surrounding countries — the same countries that are now sheltering the thousands of Iraqi professors who have fled US-occupied Iraq.

Written by Hugh Gusterson, The Bulletin of Atomic Sciences. Continue HERE

Images via The Washington Post and Costs of War.

Performativity · Public Space · Social/Politics

Performing Protest Under Occupation: Iraq’s Tahrir Square

Protestors in Sulaimaniyah’s Sara Square on Mar. 25, 2011. (Photo credit: (c) 2011 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch)

Iraq’s recent re-entry into American public discourse was marked by the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country as well as hagiographies marking the death of the Iraq war’s foremost advocate, Christopher Hitchens. This renewed interest in Iraq serves as a reminder not only of the country’s displacement from public consciousness, but also the likelihood that U.S. military withdrawal signals Iraq’s final dismissal from the American narrative.

Although it is easy to now scoff at Bush’s misplaced Mission Accomplished banner and boasts in 2003, for most Americans the gap between rhetoric and reality on Iraq has by no means narrowed. This is evident in the widespread assumption that the withdrawal of American forces means that the war in Iraq is over. This conclusion erroneously assumes that the imprint of America’s material legacy in Iraq can be magically erased, and is as misplaced as Bush’s confidence in the immediate success of the Iraq campaign.

The enduring nature of the Iraq war is reflected by recent developments on the ground. U.S. announcement of the war’s end was met with a coordinated bombing in Baghdad on December 22, 2011, consisting of 16 explosions that involved 9 car bombs, 6 roadside bombs, and 1 mortar. Within two hours, 63 people were killed and 185 wounded. Amidst these bombings, the tributes to Christopher Hitches, who had succumbed to cancer on December 15, 2011, were a particularly fitting reminder of the American disconnect between reality and rhetoric on Iraq. Commentators were effusive in their praise of Hitchens’ rhetorical form and debating style. Transitioning easily from lamenting the war to celebrating one of its cheerleaders, these hagiographies mirrored the facile and absurd reconciliation of rhetoric and reality characteristic of a culture Hitchens “helped create and has left behind. It’s a culture that has developed far too easy a conscience about, and sleeps too soundly amid, the facts of war.”

Written by Nahrain Al-Mousawi at MUFTAH. Continue HERE