The Everyday Iraq Instagram feed was founded in early 2014 by Ahmad Mousa, a twenty-five-year old Iraqi documentary photographer and video reporter for AFP based in Baghdad. He envisioned it, he said when I spoke with him recently, “as a window to shed light on the more human side of the country, to share everyday life scenes from Iraq, to document it, and put [everyday life] in history.”
The images publshed on the account share all aspects of Iraq and its people from an insider’s perspective - a flock of sheep in Diyala, students at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, a bowling alley in Baghdad, a cafe in the city of Najaf. The Everyday movement of Instagram feeds began with Everyday Africa in 2012 when two photojournalists became dissatisfied with the news media’s focus on only a narrow range of extreme subjects when it came to depicting Africa, such as poverty and violence. Everyday Middle East was started in 2014 in response to similar problems of stereotypical and limited representations in the media.
Mousa continues to be the primary curator and organizer of Everyday Iraq. The account is open to any photographer living and working in Iraq. Photos must be taken with a phone and must be in square format. Mousa says, “Everyday Iraq is a place for photographers around the country to share pictures from the cities and communities, on one account, with the whole world.” Photographers began using the hashtag #everydayiraq when posting their images on Instagram. In addition, he stays on the lookout for more images he can include which show the everyday lives of Iraqis. While there isn’t just one core group of photographers, Mousa says “there are a number of photographers who always appear on the feed.” The photographers who contribute images range from established professionals to a younger generation of social media users, who may not be professional photographers.
In the last few years Mousa has asked two other Iraqi photographers, Nawar Tamawi (@nawartamawi) and Ahmed Twaij (@twaiji), to join him as co-curators. Tamawi, also twenty-five, feels as though he is always trying to fight the stereotypical image of Iraq with his art. Through his photography he hopes to convey a message to the world. “I want to tell people that we still have a daily life, despite all that is going on in Iraq,” he says.
Twaij is an Iraqi born in England. He went to medical school in the UK before beginning work on his master’s degree in global health in the Conflict, Security, and Development program at King`s College London. “Because of my passion and love for my homeland, I decided to move to Iraq and focus on being a part of building the new Iraq.” He continues, “Everyday Iraq is a hugely important project for me, especially having grown up in the West. When the word Iraq comes to mind, frequently images of war, corruption, and chaos are associated with it by those living in the West. Everyday Iraq is an opportunity to show the world that daily life continues across the country. That people are still smiling, trying to enjoy themselves at every given opportunity.”
Mousa adds, “Everywhere in the world, people want to live a happy life, kids want to play and go to school, families want to gather happily at dinner, and youth want to help develop their society.”
With comments on the photos like “I’m glad to see Iraq in this way. Thank you,” “This is the real Iraq,” and “I didn’t know Iraq looked this way, this beautiful,” it’s obvious that the followers of Everyday Iraq are getting the message.