SUMMARY:After the toppling of Saddam Hussein and his government in 2003, Iraqis were promised freedom, democracy and improved socio-economic conditions. Instead the country has experienced unprecedented violence that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and called into question its survival as a unified country. The world's attention, meanwhile, remains overwhelmingly focused on elite-level politics and ISIS. The media have highlighted the political turmoil and sectarian violence but generally overlooked the war's social and cultural impact. For this conversation, we are asking scholars to explore the largely untold stories of post-2003 Iraq by focusing on the sociopolitical contexts, educational, and cultural heritage including ethnic diversity, women's and children's rights, the status of higher education, threats to culture heritage, and the production of post-war art and literature. In addition, we hope to explore how, given this context, the people of Iraq can be empowered in order to be vehicles of positive change.
While the war on Iraq and its aftermath has been explored on numerous occasions at MESA and other forums, the intensity of attention has been diverted to new current sites of conflict. Next March marks the fifteen-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, yet the situation inside remains complicated while further deteriorating. In this conversation, we seek to bring the focus on Iraqi people again by engaging expertise from a wide range of disciplines hoping for renewed discussion in directions that would lead to greater understanding and future positive civil engagement. Topics included in our discussion are:
1. Ethnic Diversity: How has war affected religious and ethnic identities, and in what ways can individual and social institutes promote harmony and restore the diversity that was part of Iraq history?
2. Institutionalization of Religion: How is the institutionalization of religion and politics affecting the fabric of everyday life in Iraq? Are there any intermediary bodies that are shifting institutional power strategies in a progressive direction?
3. Art and Cultural Heritage: The richness of Iraq cultural heritage is legend, but many sites were severely affected by war. How has this destruction affected Iraqis and what role can NGOs, universities, and research centers play in restoring and protecting these sites?
4. Narratives of everyday life: How the lives of women and children have been changed since the start of the war in 2003.
5. Intellectual and Academic responsibilities: What influence Iraqi writers and artists have in and outside of Iraq?