In Mosul exhibition, Iraqi artists process brutal rule of Daesh

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A woman looks at a painting during an art exhibition at the Mosul Museum Hall in Mosul, Iraq January 30, 2019. Picture taken January 30, 2019. (Reuters)
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People look at the painting and sculpture during an art exhibition at the Mosul Museum Hall in Mosul, Iraq January 30, 2019. Picture taken January 30, 2019. (Reuters)
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A man looks at the painting during an art exhibition at the Mosul Museum Hall in Mosul, Iraq January 30, 2019. Picture taken January 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 03 February 2019
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In Mosul exhibition, Iraqi artists process brutal rule of Daesh

  • Three years under the oppressive and violent rule of Daesh and the military campaign which drove it out in 2017 left much of the northern city in ruins

MOSUL: A raven perched on the shoulder of a woman with flaming hair is Iraqi artist Marwan Fathi’s symbol for the terrible events he and his home city Mosul have had to endure.
Three years under the oppressive and violent rule of Daesh and the military campaign which drove it out in 2017 left much of the northern city in ruins. Thousands were killed, rendered homeless or maimed. Those who survived are deeply traumatized.
“I still jump awake at night thinking an air strike is about to hit or that they are coming to take one of us,” Fathi, 36, said. “Everyday is a struggle.”
Fathi’s work is on display in “Return to Mosul” — the city’s first art exhibition since before it was seized by Daesh, whose ultra hard-line version of Sunni Islam prohibits most art forms.
Artists from across Iraq are taking part in the six-day show, including many who lived in Mosul when it was in the militants’ grip.
Hawkar Riskin’s haunting work ‘destruction’ depicts a giant skeleton standing on one leg, while Mohammad Al Kinani’s series of paintings — ‘Caliphate I’, ‘Caliphate II’ and ‘Caliphate III’ represents the beginning and end of Daesh, and Mosul’s rebirth.
Fathi said the artists who stayed in the city lived in constant fear and despair.
“There was a time when we considered killing ourselves. We reached that low. But then we thought, what would happen to the children?” Fathi, a professor of fine arts, said.
JONAH AND THE CITY
The show is in the newly re-opened Royal Hall of the Mosul Museum, which was looted and destroyed by Daesh and in the ensuing war to wrest control of the city.
Ahmed Mozahem, another Mosul-born artist, continued to work in secret while the city was under the militants’. Using a writing pad he kept hidden to avoid discovery, Mozahem produced 40 pencil drawings which are now among his most cherished possessions, an expression of what he and his family suffered.
For “City of the Whale,” his painting in the exhibition, Mozahem drew on the story of the prophet Jonah and the whale, which features Nineveh, the ancient Assyrian city which stood roughly where Mosul is today.
Following their capture of the city in 2014, Daesh went on a rampage, destroying many of Mosul’s ancient sites and artefacts, including a shrine believed by many to be Jonah’s tomb.
The militants not only destroyed the city, Mozahem said. “They also killed something inside, our spirit.”
But Matthew Vincent, an American archaeologist, says technology can help preserve some of what was lost. Vincent is a co-founder of a crowdsourced, digital preservation project called Rekrei, which collects photographs of damaged or lost monuments and artefacts to re-create these in 3D representations.
At the Mosul Museum, visitors are now able to catch virtual glimpse of ancient Assyrian treasures destroyed by Daesh. One of them, the Lion of Mosul, was a colossal Assyrian guardian lion from about 860 BCE, one of two which stood at the entrance of the Temple of Ishtar at Nimrud, Iraq.
“It is never going to replace the original but new technology is giving us a path we simply didn’t have before,” Vincent said.


Egypt bucks trend with vote to extend El-Sisi rule

Updated 18 min 51 sec ago
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Egypt bucks trend with vote to extend El-Sisi rule

  • On April 16, the parliament overwhelmingly approved changes extending presidential terms from four to six years
  • The amendments would prolong El-Sisi’s current term to 2024 and allow him to then run for another six-year term

CAIRO: In a referendum bucking the trend of the region’s mini-Arab Spring, Egyptians are to start voting Saturday on constitutional amendments that extend President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s rule until at least 2024.
The vote running from April 20-22 was officially announced on Wednesday, a day after parliament overwhelmingly approved the changes extending presidential terms from four to six years.
The amendments — widely expected to pass in the face of minimal opposition — would prolong El-Sisi’s current term to 2024 from 2022 and allow him to then run for another six-year term.
They also include giving the military greater influence in political life, granting El-Sisi wide control over the judiciary and broadening the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.
Egypt has been preparing for the referendum at the same time as parliament debated the amendments since the start of April.
Banners and billboards have gone up across the capital Cairo in the past weeks urging people to take part.
Many carry slogans implicitly urging people to back the amendments by doing “the right thing,” while others sponsored by the pro-government Nation’s Future party call outright for a “Yes” vote.
The referendum comes after two veteran presidents, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar Al-Bashir, were ousted in Algeria and Sudan, respectively, this month following mass street demonstrations.
MP Mohamed Abu-Hamed, who pushed for the constitutional amendments to keep El-Sisi in power, is adamant the changes are needed to allow the president to complete political and economic reforms.
El-Sisi “took important political, economic and security measures... (and) must continue with his reforms,” in the face of the unrest gripping neighboring countries, the deputy told AFP.
The Soufan Center, however, said Thursday that the amendments would “solidify El-Sisi’s grip on the Egyptian political regime.”
“There is little observable public opposition to the constitutional changes, likely a result of the oppressive nature of the Egyptian government,” said the think tank.
Under El-Sisi, “Egypt has become even more autocratic than it was under (long-time ruler Hosni) Mubarak,” it said.
As army chief of staff at the time, El-Sisi led the military’s overthrow of elected president Muhammad Mursi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader’s rule.
He won his first term as president in 2014, three years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak, and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.
His government has been widely criticized by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.
But the “recent political upheavals in Algeria and Sudan have little hope of being replicated in Egypt, where the initial murmurings of the Arab Spring have since been silenced,” said the Soufan Center.
Other constitutional amendments include a quota for women’s representation of no less than 25 percent in parliament and forming a second parliamentary chamber.
Activists including Human Rights Watch have blasted the main changes as part of a campaign to cement El-Sisi’s “authoritarian rule.”
Amnesty International said that by approving the amendments, parliamentarians had shown a “complete disregard for human rights.”
The haste with which the referendum has been pushed through prompted Egyptian and international human rights groups to call the electoral process “unfree and unfair.”
“The current national climate in Egypt is devoid of any space in which a... referendum can occur with... guarantees of partiality and fairness,” rights groups said in a joint statement.
Parliament’s small opposition “25-30 Alliance” is urging Egypt’s electorate to reject the amendments.
With the overwhelming majority of the media in the El-Sisi camp, dissenting voices have been largely restricted to social networks.