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Twelve Years After Iraq Invasion: An Interview with Rijin Sahakian, and “ A Letter to Al-Mutanabbi Street” by Sinan Antoon

[U.S. Marines patrol the streets of Al Faw, October 2003. Photo by Ted Banks from Wikimedia Commons] [U.S. Marines patrol the streets of Al Faw, October 2003. Photo by Ted Banks from Wikimedia Commons]

On 19 March 2015, twelve years will have passed since the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Today, the country is back in the headlines because of the brutality with which ISIS has been trying to destroy what is left of Iraq’s diverse cultural and human landscape. Since ISIS has moved into northern Iraq, they have displaced over a million people and gone after the cultural heritage that makes Iraq such an irreplaceable locus of world history. They have destroyed mosques, burned thousands of books in the library at Mosul and, in the past few weeks, desecrated some of the country’s most significant ancient archeological sites.

This week, Malihe Razazan speaks with Rijin Sahakian, the international curator and founder of Sada, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the generation, presentation and preservation of contemporary art in Iraq. Sahakian discusses the incredible human and cultural losses that Iraq has endured as a result of more than a decade of sanctions, occupation, and sectarian violence.

On 5 March 2007, a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, killing over thirty people and injuring more than one hundred. Al-Mutanabbi Street is the historic epicenter of Baghdad's bookselling, with bookstores, outdoor bookstalls, cafes, and stationery shops. The street has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad’s literary and intellectual community for years. In this program we feature Sinan Antoon, award winning Iraqi poet and novelist, who reads his poem “A Letter to Al-Mutanabbi Street,” from the book, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, a project of Beau Beausoleil and Sarah Bodma.

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