University of Michigan | Hatcher Graduate Library Discussion | –
“Afterlife of Occupation : Iraqi Academia and the Peripheries of Resurgence”
14 November 2023, Hatcher Graduate Library
A panel discussion exploring the landscape of anti-war advocacy within U.S. universities at the outset of the occupation, the consequences of exile or execution on the framework and prospects of Iraqi academia, and the present-day role of public intellectuals in Iraq.
Panelists include U-M faculty Juan Cole (History), Renée Ragin Randall (Comparative Literature / Middle East Studies), and Ali Hussain (Middle East Studies); U-M undergraduate student Nooralhuda Sami (Anthropology); and Dr Mohammed Karim, retired professor of fine art.
Followed by reflections on the Shadow and Light Project from project founder Beau Beausoleil and contributor Persis Karim.
Offered in conjunction with the exhibit Shadow and Light: Solidarity and Connection with Iraqi Academics, curated by Zainab Hakim, Serena Safawi and Evyn Kropf in partnership with the Shadow and Light Project.
Co-organized with the Iraqi American Union at the University of Michigan and sponsored by the University Library and the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.
Los Adam Fico. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for your patience and for making space to join us for this learning event. We are honored to have you and to have with us contributors to our panel. Yes. Really? Looking forward to your engagement with us and reflections, and to your reactions to what is shared, and also to the memorial exhibit that you would have seen in the north lobby. I’m Evan Cropp, I’m a librarian and curator here in the university library. I have been fortunate to partner with some amazing undergraduate students over the last several months, both on the design of the exhibition and also organizing this event. Serina saw Zenakimsami. I will hand it over to A to give an introduction to the framing of our panel.
The US occupation of Iraq began in 2003 and formally ended in 2011, but continues informally through the US. Devised sectarian government and the mass privatization of health and education. The 1990 to 2003 sanctions placed on Iraq by the United Nations deteriorated Iraqi infrastructure, leaving the country especially vulnerable upon the American invasion. Our project focuses specifically on the damage done to institutions of higher education and the exile of Iraqi academics.
Currently, the Hatcher Graduate Library hosts the Shadow and Light Project, which is comprised of globally sourced memorials commemorating Iraqi academics assassinated during the chaos of the US occupation. Over the summer, Serena and I curated the materials for its installation and created a supplemental online exhibit intended to recenter Iraqi voices through the art they created. Today’s panel is the latest component in our efforts to confront the legacies of occupation, specifically in the name of the war on terror. Although today’s event centers Iraq, the global war on terror, which has already claimed 5 million lives, continues today in Palestine. With the ongoing genocide, taking Pz and the 75 year long assault on any form of social and cultural expression in historic Palestine. It is vital to comprehend the common threads that link various forms of colonialism and occupation. Thank you. That link various forms of colonialism and occupation and their impact on the social landscape of besieged nations and peoples. Thank you. So again, we are grateful to our panelists for what they are bringing to this conversation.
I’ll just briefly introduce them. Okay. Before we hear from each of them in turn, I would also like to mention, forgive me for this diversion. Please help yourself. If there is any food remaining, you are most welcome to it. Also, please sign in. If you didn’t have a chance to do that, we will be most grateful. Also, please browse. We have a display of books and paintings and so on in the back of the room. In addition to the exhibit which is in the north lobby. Just a few details there. Hospitality details.
Okay. Our esteemed panelists on speaking and sharing with us this evening and I will just begin across here. We have Dr. Ali Hussein, who is here to my right. Ali Hussein is a musician, poet, and has a Phd in Islamic Studies from the University of Michigan, Department of Middle East Studies. His doctoral research focused on the image of Jesus Ali Lam in the writings of Muslim poly Mathidib and later Muslim scholars. His other research interests include Islam and Sufism in America, art and creativity, and Islam and the creative engagement that Sufistics have with Arabic through the mediation of Dr. An. In 2018, he founded the Ada Center for Spirituality, Culture, and the Arts, a nonprofit organization devoted to exploring spirituality and creativity in contemporary culture. He has many publications, including a Nostalgic Remembrance, Sufism in the Breath of Creativity, Art and Memoirs, The Wayward Journey, and others.
To his right, we have Dr. Renee Randall. Rene Randall is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Middle Ear Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on narratives of historical trauma and memory. And she is currently finishing a book on narrative aftermaths of atrocity in the context of Lebanon’s recent civil wars. She published a piece with The Conversation earlier this year demonstrating how reading contemporary literature from Iraq can act as a corrective to a prevailing political narrative here in the US, in which the occupation becomes an exceptional event in Iraqi history, and long histories of political violence and imperialism in the region are elited.
To her right, we have Dr. Juan Cole on, Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist. And the Richard Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. And I would just like to add that Professor Cole was president of the Middle East Studies Association in 2006 when the Association and the American Association of University Professors issued a joint letter to Prime Minister Nurel Maliki to express grave concern over the killings of two of Iraq’s most prominent academics is Sama Ray, a professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Ardad and President of the Union of University professors. And Jasmine Asadi, Dean of the University of Ardad School of Administration and Economics.
To his right, we have Nur Damar Sami. She’s a 21 year old Iraqi writer and international Advocate junior here at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, majoring in medical anthropology and minoring in Mina studies. Having immigrated from Iraq to Syria after the 2003 occupation. Then from Syria to the US after the Syrian Civil War. Nor shares a similar story to millions in the diaspora. Being Arab American comes with its own range of inequities, lack of representation, misstated census, various cultural specific health issues as an agent of change from a culture of change makers. Newer has led international medical aid drives, raising over $500,000 Research funded by the universities. Richard Goodman grant working with the environmental militarism and its correlation to chronic illnesses caused by US military burn pits in Iraq. And works with multi ethnic groups across the US in pursuit of collective liberation. This year, she founded a foundation and education program for school age students taking their placement exams in Iraq. Working to expand further in the Middle East nuts, in pursuit of an MD Phd in Anthropology, to enhance her mobility as a perfect servant, please join me in welcoming our panelists and then we will begin to hear from them in turn, physical. If you’d like to take it away.
Juan Cole: Welcome everybody. Thanks for coming out this evening. The tendency in popular writing about Iraq, especially after the Americans invaded it, was to see it as a deeply divided country, Shiites and Sunnis. The American public finally seems to have figured out that there were more than one kind of Islam in the world during this adventure. There was a, it wasn’t Mark Twain, but there was a wit who once said that wars are God’s way of teaching the American public geography. Then there’s the Kurdish issue and so forth. The image of Iraq is one and you often hear this phrase of age old hatreds and sectarian divisions and so forth. While there were such things as a historian, I have to tell you that I spent some time with the American Diplomatic Correspondence from the US Ambassador in Baghdad back to Washington and his political reporters for the 1960s and ’70s. There were worries about Iraq going communist. There were questions about how friendly the Bath government of Arab Nationalists and Socialists would be towards US interests. There were reports, peasant and landlord disputes, and sometimes peasant invasions of estates. Because Iraq was an extremely unequal society under British Property law. From the time that the British conquered Iraq during World War One, until they actually relinquished it, which was 1958. Although Iraq became independent in 1932, under British Property Law, which was implemented, liberalism went wild. And it was possible for people to build up these enormous capitalist states. Date orchards and other enterprises feeding the world market. A time when the peasantry was often forced into landless nests, to emigrate to the cities where they congregated in these vast slums that became breeding grounds for communism and Baathism, of which the United States was so afraid. In that correspondence that I looked through in the 1960s and ’70s, Shiism came up once, when Grand Ayatollah Hakim Died and there was question who would succeed him. And Americans were interested in this issue because sometimes the successors were of Iranian extraction and that might affect Iraq. Aside from that dispatch, they never brought up Islam, Shiism, Sunnism. They may as well have been talking about Martians. Their interest was how left are they? Are they going left? Are they a threat to the capitalist world? Are they joining Moscow? That was the lens through which these diplomats were viewing Iraq. And it didn’t seem to them very clearly that Iraq was driven by sectarian hatreds. That, that wasn’t the engine that was running the country in that era.
I just tell you the story to emphasize that whenever you hear the phrase age old hatreds, it’s always false, it’s propaganda. Actually, what we have learned is that people learn to hate each other really quickly. It can happen in a matter of a few months. They did the same thing to the Balkans, you know, because the former Yugoslavia fell into disarray after the fall of the Soviet Union, and Serbs and Croats and Bosnian Muslims were at war with one another. And they trotted out this phrase in the newspapers, age old hatreds. But actually under Tito, things seem to be fine, weren’t hatreds. You know, there’s not a good reason for those people to fight. They’re divided by religion. Croats are Catholic and Serbs are Eastern Orthodox and Bosnians. A lot of them are Muslim, but under the communist people didn’t mostly practice their religion. Why would they fight then? Their languages differ slightly, but it’s all mutually comprehensible.
These ethnic divisions among people are constructed, they’re not givens. When the United States invaded Iraq, it found a country that did already have some of these divisions. And it’s often forgotten that after the Gulf War, George HW. Bush went on the shortwave radio and asked the people to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. I don’t know what he meant by that exactly, but the Bush’s pretended to be common People like Bush tried to speak with a phony southern accent and would always get the idioms wrong. But they were from Connecticut and went to Yale, weren’t in fact common people at all. Their patriarchs included a banker and a senator. I think Bush was calling on his equivalents on the gentleman of Iraq to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Because he had gotten the country into this pickle by invading Iran and invaded Kuwait, and then provoking a 16 nation coalition against himself. Bush thought that surely you upper class baths understand that this has been a failure and you should really move against this figure now. But instead, the Kurds and the Shiites understood him to say that if they rose up against the government in the aftermath of the Gulf War in the spring of 1991, that the US would support them. And they rose up, and Bush had promised France and other countries in order to get them into the coalition, that he wouldn’t go onto Iraq. The US didn’t intervene. Saddam Hussein didn’t deal well with criticism, much less an uprising. He mobilized tanks and chemical weapons and crushed the Shiite rebellion in the south. Killed very large numbers of people in the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, in particular. I know I have friends in Dearborn who their families are much smaller now than they used to be in the ’80s because of all this killing.
And then the Kurds were in danger of being genocided, because in 1988, Saddam had already shown that he was willing to gas them. They became afraid when the Americans didn’t show up to protect them. And they went up into the mountains, Well, there isn’t any food up in the mountains, and a lot of them went up there. There was some danger of 1 million people starving to death. On Bush’s watch, he did finally establish a no fly zone and sent in General Jay Garner to do aid to the Kurdish people. But basically the US. The people who wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein out to dry. They didn’t forget this. When the US came back in 2003, the Americans had forgotten about it, but the Iraqis had not. The crushing of those rebellions did also create a lot of bitter feelings and some of them were sectarian in character of the Shiites despaired of justice in, and had fled to Iran, or came under Iranian influence and had established organizations like the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, in which carried out operations against the Saddam Hussein regime. There was the Ha party among the Shiites that dreamed of a Shiite utopia, not a clerical state like Iran, a run one with maybe a parliament with consultation. That party had been banned by Saddam Hussein and belonging to it became a capital crime. I don’t mean to say that disputes of a sectarian character, but I have to say they were pretty minor in terms of numbers. You can see it in the Irani Rock War, 1980-1988 Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. The US military doctrine is that you invade a country when you have an advantage in troop strength of three to one, they think you can defend it. Saddam Hussein did it backwards. He invaded a country three times larger in population than his own. This war was doomed. The Iranians rallied and fought back. And it was a horrible World War One style war with trenches and mustard gas. All the horrible mistakes that were made in World War One were replicated between Iran and Iraq. In the 1980s, I estimate about 40,000 Iraqi Shiites defected to Iran in the course of that war. The Iraqi army was largely Shiite conscripts. There are millions of Shiites in Iraq, almost to a person. They stood with their country against their co religionists in Iran, because Iran is also shiite.
It shows you that religion just wasn’t the dividing line. Here, it was the nation and people fought together for the nation. But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it created a power vacuum. The expatriates that it brought along were devoted to what was called debaathification, which they likened to densification. They would tell you at end, less length if you asked them what they meant was, they said after World War Two when the US occupied Germany, a former Nazis were fired. This is not true. Former Nazis became prime ministers and things they taught high school. There wasn’t a denatification on that scale, but they did it in Iraq. What it meant was you fired large numbers of Sunni Arabs, especially from government jobs, which were the only jobs that were operating in Iraq under the Americans. And then these expatriates who came along with the Americans brought their cronies to fill those jobs. And so you had 70% unemployment in the Sunni Arab areas and you had lots of money flowing into the Shiite areas. The Kurds were relatively sanguine about the end of the Saddam Hussein regime and relatively favorable towards the Americans. So it was the American presence itself that threw up the s, the sectarian battles. And let me just tell you one story to end, once this all got going. They had a Civil War in 2006, 2007.
The Americans were supposed to be there to keep order, but they let a civil war unfold under their noses. People were killed on a sectarian basis in that time.
In 2008, I went to Jordan to try to do some research among the Iraqis who had gone into exile there to find out why they had gone, what their future plans were. I found it very difficult research to do. I don’t mean to be too delicate, because those people were really suffering. I was just an American researcher. I had plenty of money and opportunities, but it hit me in the gut, the stories that they told me. So I contacted the refugee agencies and they introduced me around. I went to dinner one evening with an Iraqi professional couple in Aman, an architect and a physician. I asked them, well, in 2008, now things are settling down a little bit. Do you think you’ll go back? They said no, we’re a mixed marriage. She’s she our neighborhood has been ethnically cleansed of the other s, we don’t fit in anymore in our neighborhood. We can’t go back to where we were from. Then I went to Eastman, which is very poor, and it’s where they dumped the Palestinian refugees. And the refugees were living amongst them often in these apartments. I talked to one couple and s are you going back They said, no, we can’t because the reason we’re here is that in our neighborhood, there was a militia that came and threatened us. We were the opposite sect of the Militia. They put a letter in our mailbox that Thad is still here on Thursday, he and his family are dead. We immediately packed everything into the car and drove to a Jordan is not a signatory of the 1952 refugee Act. Refugees can’t work there. They’re not regularized. They’re living on their savings. And the UN used to give them 75 dinars a month. The woman of the house had started, had been given a sewing machine. And so she was starting to tailor clothes for her neighbors. There was an Iraqi physician who had become regular and got citizenship and was providing these sewing machines, baking ovens, and things to the Iraqi refugee women so that they could make a little bit of extra money on the side, but they were trapped there. And I said, well, are you going to go back now? And they said, no, we can’t because the militia that threatened Us is still in power in that neighborhood. So we can’t go back. 4 million Iraqis were made homeless by the US invasion. Over time, by the US invasion and its knock on effects, 1,000,000 of them forced out of the country, and the rest displaced inside the country from north to south, or from parts of Baghdad to another. The city of Baghdad was roughly equally Shiite and Sunni when Bush invaded by 2007, after the Civil War of 75% Shiite. There were these massive sectarian fights and population movements and refugees in the same way that the Palestinians had exile woven into their identity. Now, the Iraqis had the same thing.
Renée Ragin Randall: All right, so I think I’ll pick up where Juan left off, thinking about this question of exile, thinking about the question of history and how history gets talked about. Before I do that, I just want to say to Zena, where are you? Hi, And to Serena and Evan. And who did the hard work of organizing and curating the exhibit that is in the hatcher lobby and this event. Thank you for your work, especially in this particular time. I know that’s a lot of energy to put into something. I am a literary scholar, so my head in books and paper all the time. Excuse me, I’m going to be reading to you guys today, but that is how I’m going to talk about the shadow and light themes. Right? I’m thinking about how traumatic histories are narrated in literature. And in particular tonight I’d like to think with Iraqi authors who have written about the narration of histories. Such as the one that Juan described against the backdrop of both American military and local sectarian violence in a US. Occupied Iraq. And as Iraqi scholars in particular became targets of this violence, many writers of fiction from Iraq became preoccupied with the question and indeed the status of history and knowledge. Um, they point, as I show, not only to the question of the violent erasers of history and knowledge, but also to ideas about what forms historical preservation could even take in the future. Of course, fiction writers are not the only people who are interested in history and historicism during moments of cataclysmic violence and upheaval. It’s quite common for there to be a general preoccupation with history on the part of various actors in moments like this. And sometimes the questions are about, how did we get here to this moment, right? And other times, the turn towards history is an attempt to figure out how the present moment in conversation with the past could shape the future. It’s almost existential. This is the case for writers who have remained in Iraq, as well as for those who have left. I think in particular of the London based Iraqi playwright Hassan Adrazak, who, for instance, submitted an entry to this very shadow and light project. His entry is on display in the lobby. He wrote, In memory of Ism Sharif Muhammad, a professor of history and head of the College of Humanities at Barhdad University who was murdered in October 2003, exactly 20 years ago. Az describes why this professor of history was the person he chose to memorialize an explanation with roots and his family’s own flight from Iraq in 1981, just after Saddam’s invasion of Iran. Abra Zach writes that over the decades in between his exile and when he finally returned in 2019, as the dictator was replaced by the US. Military and the military by non state actors. The few precious childhood memories of Baghdad that I had had acquired a mythic quality. It was getting harder to know what was real and what was imagined, he said. When he returned to Baghdad in 20194 decades later, one of his first stops was the Iraqi National Museum, which he found nearly empty. It had been looted of its material history. Hi, welcome. Come on up. Commemorating the life and work of a professor of history, it seemed would necessarily be an imperative for Abraza because it could allow him to try and staunch the erasure of historical memory. Welcome, this threat of historical erasure is a preoccupation that’s also shared by the Basra based Iraqi writer A Gable. The contemporary history of the city of Basra as one layered with the violent histories of petro capitalist and ethno political violence, as well as political resistance infuses his writing, one of his short stories is set in Basra in the year 2013100, years after the start of the occupation. And in the story, a council of academic historians has been tasked by the region’s Governor General with verifying and the possible existence of historical occurrences more horrendous, more extensive or at least equal to the unfortunate phenomena and bloody events which have occurred in Basra in the past few years. The report’s executive summary continues specifying that these unfortunate phenomena and bloody events have included the exhaustion of Basra’s oil and gas, the drying up of the Hat Arab massacre, famine, trafficking of women and children, plagues and looting. In deep fear of this politician, this Governor General, the academics report concludes with the hope that their exhaustive archival research will satisfy his purposes. They have no idea why he needs this information. It does satisfy him. He reads about Iraq’s dictatorships and foreign occupations, but also about global plagues and famines and genocides. And he loads these stories into a sermon, which he delivers via Orwellian telescreens to his desperate citizens, condemning them for complaining about their lives. As the story concludes, we learn that the narrator of this story about the weaponization of history is a statute. One of the many monuments to history in the country that now languish on a trash heap. The statue finishes his story about the wretchedness of future Basra while looking at his abandoned companions, busts and figures of scholars and national heroes who have had their precious metals extracted. Or who are being created in preparation for being shipped to a European museum. From Abra, Zach’s elegy for Professor Muhammad, lamenting a profession endangered by decades of political violence, to Abel’s fiction about what may happen to history in the future. I move to one more example, perhaps a more hopeful one from the ouvre of one of the best known Iraqi writers in diaspora. Sinan Anton Ton attended the University of Baghdad, where he majored in English and minored in Arabic and Translation. He received an MA from Georgetown University and a Phd from Harvard, where he worked on medieval Arabic poetry. And he’s currently a professor at NYU. And I am mentioning this not because I want to wow you guys with his pedigree, but because it’s relevant to our talk today about Iraqi academics and to understanding this particular Iraqi academics novel. This novel is called Ferris, which translates to Index or Catalog. And it was published in 2016, later translated into English as The Book of Collateral Damage. The reference to the index or catalog is key for reasons that I’ll explain shortly broadly. The story concerns the intersecting fates of two protagonists. Namir, who’s a scholar of Arabic medieval poetry, who’s come to the US to pursue a doctorate in Arabic literature and a career in academia. And Wadud, an enigmatic bookseller and collector. The two meet in Iraq shortly after the US. Occupation begins on one of Namir’s return visits. And they encounter each other, not at all, coincidentally on Al Mutanabe Street, the century old bookselling and intellectual hub near Bada’s historic district, whose name pays homage to a prolific tenth century poet, and some of you may know the saying which many used to describe the literary geography of the modern Middle East. Right? El Cauda, right? So Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, Barda Reads, Namir and Wadud are indeed the embodiment of Bada’s readers. They’re steeped in millennia of literary history. One festooned by the trappings of American academia, and the other surrounded by stacks and shelves of forgotten manuscripts in a small dark room. So after purchasing books from Wad, Namir strikes up a correspondence with him that they keep up. After Namir returns to the United States where he learns that Wadud has been painstakingly writing this index, this catalog, which consists of a series of vignettes told from the perspective of humans, animals and objects. And they narrate in the first person, the first minute that American bombs began falling on Iraq in 2003, and their own existence came to an end. These are objects which are ancient. In some cases, a priestess tablet and a musical instrument with ancient histories that evaporate in the Schellen. That the matter of historical erasure during the occupation is the subject of Adu makes even more sense when Namir learns the man’s history that years earlier, Adu had been jailed and tortured by Saddam’s regime for selling banned books. When he emerged from prison, he found his family and his home destroyed. He went mad, people said, and confined himself to a one room flat next to his shop, surrounded by First editions and his own writings. Back in the United States, Namirez pouring through this catalogue, losing his motivation to finish his dissertation, to write his own scholarly book, because he feels a destruction of his homeland and what he sees as the comparative uselessness of his historical re, reading of a medieval court poet in one of America’s ivory towers. It just drives him to despair. It doesn’t help that in this post 911 era, the ivory tower is smudged with the xenophobia and militant intolerance of his coworkers. But he does finish first his dissertation and then his tenure book, and finally, a novel about the life of Wadud. The novel, both Namir’s novel and Antun’s novel ends with the infamous 2007 suicide bombing on Al Muta Nab Street. The fictional Wadud is killed in the blast. Not very long after he had finally agreed to give, named permission to translate and to publish the stories of the first minute of the occupation. So I’m struck time and again by the beauty of this tale of not one, but two Iraqi intellectuals. One’s an academic who’s very uncomfortably ensconced in the halls of powerful institutions in a country that is hard at work destroying his own. And the other is an erstwhile collector and writer entombed in knowledge which risks annihilation until he chooses to pass it on. It’s a story which both critiques and celebrates the role of the academic in exile. It meditates painfully on the distrust of the ones who left on the part of the ones who stayed. And ultimately reveals the mutual dependence of the two for the task of protecting the past and the future. It’s unsparing in its representation of the steep personal, psychological and material costs of preserving knowledge amidst destruction. It offers some hope, I think, in the decentering of the custodianship and the production of histories. In other words, it encourages readers to sit with not just the loss to which authors like Abrazabli and Antun among others bear witness. But also to pay homage to and to celebrate the resistances of the lay intellectuals, the lovers of knowledge, and books like Wadud make that work possible for the futures that are still being written.
Thank you. Thank you very much. I would like to continue with Professor Randall’s Beautiful talk about History. I will go a little bit further back to the first Gulf War, which I personally witnessed as a child in Baghdad. The intertwined importance of art in that city, in bad, and really in the region, in the Middle Eastern region. As Professor Le also beautifully showed, there was quite a, especially in Iraq, a remarkable presence of Jews and Christians. My other half, my Egyptian half, also large presence of Egyptian Jews and Egyptian Christians until recently in the 20th century. We now find, for example, Iraqi Jewish academics, for example, Avi Schlaim for example, who is very critical of Zionism. The remarkable thing about art, I grew up in an artistic family. My mother, she worked in the Iraqi television as a set designer in the ’80s. My brother is an architect and my sister, she studied in Mahu Jamilla, she studied pottery. My childhood memories in Diaspora were memories of art and artists and galleries meeting actors coming to my house. And then when we moved to Jordan after the war, we continue to meet these Iraqi artists who are in diaspora, also sort of overflowing from Iraq to Jordan. There is a particular ability and of art to sort of resurface, even in situations where the artists themselves had not witnessed a particular genocide or a particular assault on their land and their people. For example. Now Mahmud Ish is, is as if he’s still alive and he’s still writing minus right, or Niza Bani, his poetry resurfaces. There is this particular ability in the case of specifically even the epic of Gilgamesh resurfaces as a part of national Iraqi pride. I remember the first time I came across a poignant ability of Iraqi artists to speak timelessly is one of the poems by Ahmed, who is a political, was a political exile from, and he has a very powerful poem called in English also, it translates very poetically to bullet pen, right. It has this idea of bullet right as means bullets like from a gun. In the poem is very short. I will translate it and read it in Arabic and translate it says just the Dr. measured my pulse and said is the pain here I said yes. The made an incision with his knife and took out a pen. The Dr. tilted his head and smiled and said it’s nothing but a pen. I said, no, my dear sir, this is a hand and a mouth, a bullet, and blood. And a lonely crime. Walking barefoot, walking footless, right. Our family personally felt this almost dangerous power of the artist, when a dear family friend was assassinated in 1994, even after the Bush regime. For the apparent silly reason is that she was the supervisor of a mosaic of George HW. Bush’s face being put on the floor in front of the one of the hotels in Bardad by order of Saddam. And both her house and her sister’s house was bombed and she died and she was my mother’s friend. Is this dangerous power of the artist, precisely because they continue to live after, after they physically die. Their poetry has this resurgence, this timelessness. Especially again, bringing the issue of philistine. A lot of, for example, Iraqi Jews were very prominent musicians in Iraq. They were even musical instrument makers. And some of them, when they were forced out of Iraq and they went to Israel to Tel Aviv, they actually opened Arabic musical instrument stores just to maintain a connection to. They have what are called the salons, as they do in Egypt nowadays. For example, where they play the music from the Good Old Days. They’re not singing Jewish songs, they’re singing Malum. They’re singing Navrazalr. They’re singing the songs that remind them of their childhood. This very powerful ability of art. And I wanted to share my own experience as somebody who likes to write in Arabic and English. How? Building off the question of history, I’ve always believed that literature is history told in the first person. It surpasses the bureaucracy of politics. This is why I think we are so affected by Ahmed’s poem because of being exiled. The idea of the idea of genocide, very personal. For example, in the last words in his poem, in where he says a Jundi un Fiji, Walt Eltulkaluau and Amuts female soldiers screamed in my face, did I not kill you? He said yes, but like you, I forgot to die. These very simple words has a very profound effect. I remember, for example, in 1973, in the 1973 war, the famous musician Bed insisted on going into the Egyptian television to compose a song. They refused, and they said, we don’t have a budget. He said, I will pay for it from my own money. The story is that he went with Daria and he started listening to how the janitors were responding to the war unfolding in the television. He saw that these janitors, very simple people, said bell. And then he wrote that as the first lyrics of the song, Ada. My experience, I was watching a video of the famous Iraqi actor Jilifari on his deathbed. He was visited by his friend, another Iraqi actor, Samotanamlotan, when he saw his friend on his death bed. He said, in Iraqi expression, now I’ve heard that countless times before, but for some reason it struck me. I never thought about what this expression actually means. Right. Does it actually mean truth or lies? Like, is this really happening? Is this really unfolding? But I didn’t see two Iraqi actors. I saw Iraq, Iraq, giving a eulogy to itself. Then maybe a week later, I was in $1 store, I see an Iraqi man and his friend is with him. He asks his friend, do you have $100 bill He says, No, I don’t. He says immediately, there was something that was transformed. That this is the state of the Iraqi abroad in a country that had caused his exile in $1 store, not even a fancy store, and he can’t find $100 bill. It’s like the old Iraq represented by Samuel Tan. And this idiom of such ties the present generation and diaspora with the past generation. It was a very creative moment. I think that it goes to emphasize that as Iraqi is in diaspora, it’s very important to keep this literature alive. Specifically, not only contemporary, just lost one of its major contemporary poets, Kim, but also to remember that past, to keep the memory of art alive, to keep the memory of Samuel Tan and that entire generation. I think this is a wonderful exhibit. And thank you very much, Evan and the library for opening this opportunity up. Thank you very much. Hi. Good evening. Just for people trickling in, I’m going to go through a little bit of the preface that Evan gave me because it will make more sense when I start giving my little spiel. My name is Nor, and I was born on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. 2002 Sofa. And that was the year before the occupation. Of course, as we know, when an occupying force enters a country, they enter, they give their full blows to the Capitol. And that’s where we were for the first eight years of my life. We lived, my family, my mom. Extended family without any male relatives were circling the preferes of the city. I say that because it’s relevant to why I am interested in conversations like this, that story and that origin, that experience is important to me. Yeah, I’m going to start giving a little talk about why, what I envision here, the word resurgence. I know our scholars here in contextualize different aspects of the post war after life, But I think it’s really important before we get into the post war after life conversation to talk about how we got there and not just what happened post 2003. But before that, in 1991, the US. Baker said bombed Iraq to the stone ages. Then from that period on to 2003, we experienced the worst humanitarian crisis. Through the form of really brutal sanctions where medicine, water, food resources, anything was not allowed to come into the country. And that killed over 1 million Iraqis. And then you have, of course, the physical occupation of 2003, which also took a toll on the social landscape of Iraq. So when we talk about resurgence, I think about reparations. And if you’ll allow me, I will read you what I actually prepared. Not this impromptu little thing I can’t do impromptu guys. I’m really bad at talking, but here, here it goes. In the Anthropocene, discussions about destruction and repair often take universalist tone as if a collective human we can recover from the impacts of capitalism, colonialism, and militarism. However, this discourse falls politically flat, producing common humanity. Only in the imaginations of those who profit from anthropogenic mass destruction, a category in which most of us unwillingly fall. This framing runs counter to the long history of critical disciplines like feminist studies, which calls for spesitivity and attention to political context. For example, global climate change is everyone’s problem, but it is produced by inequality and extraction. In just to give that a little reference here, I remember what happened in 2011 in Syria and Jordan. There were hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing Syria to enter Jordan that year. Jordan had an especially cold winter. You’re in this landscape in refugee camps and it’s really cold and you have tens of thousands or hundreds of a number of Syrian children freezing to death. Israel offers Jordan snow plows to mitigate the tension that exists there. That is especially ironic because it neglects the reason why Syrian refugees are dying there in the first place. So that’s what I mean by it’s produced by inequality and extraction. And it is a political nature. To me, reparations offer an opening to engage the historical and political sensitivity of each call for urgent and expensive repair, particularly in the wake of war. Reparations account for people finding a way to generate conditions for a resurgence in the best interests of the global. We fully accounting for the fact that there are victims, perpetrators, and players in between, but it can’t be simply imagined as repair plus politics or snowplow acknowledgment. The history of reparation implementation has always been fraught with misuse. Often repair is just a dirty ruptures that cannot or should not be closed. Many people rightly think that reparations are just hush money. Most of the US legal system is structured around this framework. Workers compensation, for instance, caps $1 amount injuries worth and requires confidentiality upon the receipt of funds. The framework for repair in this case, at the intersection of labor, private property law, marriage, slavery in the personhood of corporations is a symptomized version of the payment for silence and an unequal distribution of justice. This is why Tanahquot calls for the reparation of African Americans not for slavery, but for racist housing, employment and education policies directly linked to GI bills and US military efforts. He is quite clear about the importance of locating and quantifying individual cases rather than proposing a blanketed statement, a blanketed system for symbolic justice. Quotes. Specific calculations are central to the functionality of reparations work. Conversely, Susan Soman writes about her relatives debate on whether or not to accept German reparations for the Holocaust. She discusses quantification as a ratio. On one hand, to receive money from Germany is to accept acknowledgment that wrong was done. But on the other hand, to receive a sum of money is to accept that the sum represents an appropriate quantification of the age of the damage. And further, but on the other hand, to receive a sum of money is to accept that the sum represents an appropriate quantification of the damage and that further discourse is not necessary. The dilemmas on how to receive reparations index broader dilemmas on how to give reparations. Are there ever conditions when one could demand more or seek reparations that exceed the consent of the oppressor? Here I will outline some conditions that might allow us to achieve both political and restorative aims of the concept and try to sidestep some of the dilemmas. First, reparations, they have to be grassroots. I don’t think that we can dismantle the master’s house with a master’s tools. The bureaucracy of a state in this case is quantification and the distribution of devices. The bureaucracy of a state in this case, it’s quantification and distribution of devices and are often things that produce mass violence. How then can also be the same system by which reparations are determined and distributed? Reparations should be as grass roots as a grass roots practice and abolish as a state practice, and we should abolish them as a state practice. Reparations can be a matter of governments making post war deals with little or negative bearing on ordinary people, which they most often are. While I am respectful of the people calling for their governments to pay reparations, I am weary that the people can never determine the conditions by which such process is sustained or administered. Second, reparations have to be helpless. We must abandon hope to conduct ourselves in a way that is most directional toward liberation. One of the most precaneous components of de, politicized repair is the sense of helping or saving. It is part of that universalist call to clean up messes of war in the name of humanitarianism, rather than in the name of politically specific responsibilities. In the case of Iraq or Palestine, where US complicity is direct and ongoing, it is clear that people need as little help from Americans as they can get. It is precisely the condition of aid and dependency that produce the violations for which we are most responsible. On the other hand, the reverse is equally problematic. It is not the job of suffering people, to help perpetrators recover from the addictions and psychosis of plunder. Reparations need to be mutual and address ongoing dynamics of power and inequality. Third, reparations have to be ambiguous. Of course, there is no clear distinction between victim and perpetrator. For example, I, as an Iraqi American, do I owe reparations? Or am I owed reparations By whom? Which of the many violations made and endured in my name? So often academics take the stance of a witness as if they are absolved from the material involvement in war and violation. So often the claims are made that government of the devil and the rest of us are just people who all suffer at the hands of warfare. An American soldier suffers from war differently than than an Iraqi or an Afghani civilian. In other words, plunder, suffering, and responsibility are not simple or unidirectional. But we can’t have a world where people throw up their hands unwillingly to take personal responsibility simply because they too suffer. We can do better. There is no pure victim, perpetrator, or witness, but a lack of purity or clarity, and a lack of purity or clarity does not absolve us from the responsibility of being perpetrators. Lastly, I would like to argue that there is no such thing as the post war, and to imagine it is a very dangerous foreclosing. As Adra Simpsons argues, most violations are ongoing. I call your attention to the BDS movement in Palestine. It is a call from Palestinian civil society to boycott divest from and sanction the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It is a call for reparations that accounts for ongoing financial, military, and social complicity in the US. Prevention and intervention are parallel and sometimes primary components of reparation work. Ongoing means that it is not ongoing, means that it ongoing that it is not enough to repair the congenital heart defect and send our child patient back home. We are bound by his mother’s spit on our cheeks to prevent the sale of weapons and aircraft to Iraqi governments dropping bombs on Fallujah in other parts of the world. In conclusion. I understand in conclusion. What am I going to conclude with, guys? Okay, I often fall back on a much demonized concept. An eye for an eye. Q Shut out Homer, Be my home boy, my ancestor. You know. Let’s remove for a second the white picket fence that liberals put around, acceptable notions of violence and non violence. For a second, the eye for the eye sets a condition of absolute equality. It means that my eye is worth the same pricelessness as yours. It is a notion that prevents violence by insisting from the beginning on real equality. If I pluck out your eye, you my equal might also pluck out mine. Your gaze upon me is no less meaningful than mine upon you. My ability to see depends on your ability to see. In conclusion, the real one, Reparations need to move outside of institution reparations to move outside of, in institutional or monetization. It requires us to move our children, our spit, our bodies, our ga, and our resources fluidly, intimately and painfully. Reparations have to be grass roots. They have to be helpless, ambiguous, ongoing, and without absolution. Reparations call for us to refuse private property. We are asked to engage in collective repair by opening up that thing we hold as our most private property, our morality. Thank you. Okay, so I would like to introduce another esteemed panelist who is joining us. Now we have Dr. Mohammed Karim. Dr. Karim was born in Basra in 1956. He has been a department head, artist union leader, and eventual refugee and US resident. He has carried his passion for art, mentorship and instruction across numerous displacements and transitions. A graduate of the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Bardad. He went on to teach at the Instructors Institute in Najaf and at universities in Libya. A university and university of to even when displaced by the Libyan revolution to a refugee camp in Usha, Tunisia. He went on teaching. He continues to contribute to festivals and exhibitions and to share from his knowledge, even as a volunteer docent at the DIA, enjoy with the English language, now enjoy with Arabic language Abraza Academy. Ajei M in Phoebe. Diet Juliette Heyden. We all academia academies A Eliava you understand me in Arabic language Trans Dr. Kim is explaining that he completed his studies at basically drawn from the introduction that I just gave. He completed his studies in bad 1979 and he traveled most recently, he mentions that he traveled to Libya. Continue. I speak English language but not perfectly the Taliban of summary Dallas A. Tied. All right. Okay. Okay. So let’s see. So at some point he’s mentioned that he’s taught in Libya. So in Libya the universities he has taught for about 13 years. But then because of certain circumstances, you know, you know, he was he was forced there. He was mentioning that they were they were forced to leave for economic reasons, for material reasons basically. And that he was able to take up teaching in Libya. The teaching of course. Then he has mentioned that there is not this direct relationship between politics, That they are separate. That they are distinct. Got drawn in virtual. Okay. Drawn into Thank you please. Yes. I’m trying to remember what was said. Translation difficult. Please go ahead and you’re using the mic if you want and the Taliban academia. When he was a student at the academy, he participated in a number of exhibitions and Asp, it was his ambition to become an important artist in and he realized his ambition of becoming a part of the artists of and we fund drawing and anatomy of art, perspective history of art. He taught at the Teachers Institute in Naje, and these were among the subjects that he instructed in assessed. And he founded the first department of our instruction in Iraq here at this Teachers Institute, Salia Mujiban. He was forced to travel to Libya. Libya Hablen were Bakalis. Ashman Libya welcomed his artistry and he stayed there for 13 years. As a Cobi, he and a number of colleagues from Egypt and others established a department of art education in mid composition. The course that he taught was color palette, I guess. Composition. Yeah, He held a number of exhibitions in Libya, and he was a member of those that actually put forward exhibitions in the Alibaba. Okay. Yeah. In Libya, Thai, Libya. After the Libyan revolution, they went to the refugee camp. Jill the heaven. Okay. So after they found him in the camp director of the camp said that truly they have found gold. Yes. In the person. Puna. Yeah, you might laugh at this, but this is what she said. His dream has been in and in Libya and here in America to serve art and artistry. Fab America, zero bet. For that reason he has chosen this path and continues to produce art. He has a studio in his home. Yes. He continues in this area? Yes. Okay. Yeah. He’s worked at the D as a do in Libya. He worked with the refugees that were coming from Libya to the refugee camp in Tunisia. And so and so they made something out of nothing amazing thing about art is that every person can make picture. Okay. And Yes. Thank you. S. Yes. And son. Okay. Yeah. So using a pen and brush the man can make a picture on his paintings are here and they are caught between his own self critique, between palette and composition, and so on. A So wish. And his ambition here in the States is to serve those with disabilities, Zb. Okay, so not only disabilities for example of mind, but addictions, other ailments. A business at this work, he took a course about this during his graduate training here, Sugar and Jazan, academia M. But this is just a synopsis from his life and from his experiences. And he’s mentioning another artist who was very important in terms of his contributions. Academy was a student with him there at the Fine Arts Institute. And for your attention, thank you. Thank you so much. In the interest of time, I would like to invite our guests who are in zoom to briefly speak. We are honored to be joined by doctors who is Nada chair and director of the newly established Center for Dip Studies at San Francisco State University. And a professor in the Department of Comparative Literature. And we also have Bo, bo, S Hill, a poet and bookseller in San Francisco, California, who is the founder of the Admultonaby Street Coalition and who has devised the Shadow and Light Project. Both Ba and Perses have contributed work to the memorial exhibition, which is in the north lobby. We would just like to invite them. First of all, we would like to extend our gratitude for their partnership in supporting the exhibition here and this conversation which can emerge from it, and then invite them to share very briefly their thoughts. Thank you, Evan. I want to begin by thanking the University of Michigan and especially Evan, who maintained a long dialogue with me over almost two years to bring the exhibit to where it is. Now, one thing that I want to define at the beginning is what this project is a project of P. It is not an attempt to speak for the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have their own voice and it is quite eloquent as we have heard tonight. It is a project of witness, memory, and solidarity. As a poet, I have always felt that the important thing about solidarity is to make it visible. And that’s what I have tried to do with all the parts of our project, which began as a response to the car bombing of Al Mu Tanabe Street in 2007. We have exhibited around the world. In so many of these exhibit spaces, we have had Iraqis who are in the who have left Iraq just pour out their own stories. That’s been an incredibly moving thing for everybody who has been part of this project. What I tried to do with shadow and light was to find some ground where artists and writers and academics in the west could find a common ground with the Iraqi academics that we are honoring. I didn’t want this just to be a memorial. I didn’t want the equivalent of laying flowers on someone’s grave. I wanted to try and engage imagination of the people who wanted to be part of this and try to get as close to that academic as they possibly could through their own writing and photographs as well. Or as badly as we have done it. We have done it with a very pure intent to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people who have endured so much. I want to thank again, Evan, and let Pers speak. Hi everyone. Thank you, Evan. Thank you to all the panelists. I didn’t expect to learn so much, but I’m really happy that I was able to be a part of your listening audience today. I’m sorry I didn’t get your last name. Renee. I teach literature for me in many respects captures the stories that can’t be found anywhere else. When I became part of the Al Mutabi Street Coalition, I felt compelled to respond not just to the events of the bombing in 2006, but also to the idea that as an American, the great lies that were perpetrated to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq felt egregious when they were happening, but even more egregious as the time went on and we discovered how false they were. As several people in the audience noted, it’s just been war and one series of devastating consequences for the people in the region after another. It brings us to this current moment. I want to say that my interest in shadow and light, in particular, I participated in the Amutabi starts here anthology. But I was very interested in the role of academics when I was a professor at San Jose State University. One of my colleagues got an e mail from a professor of literature who was studying an American poet, an American woman poet. And he asked for books, and I can’t even remember the name of the poet we collected and sent them to him. It was a way in which we felt connected to this one professor in Iraq. In Baghdad. After this project, shadow and light came to me, I realized like we had lost touch with this professor. Later on, I found out that he was one of many who were killed in a kidnapping, a ransom that went bad. I saw the list of academics that Bo provided, 400 academics from a Spanish NGO. There weren’t that many women on the list. I selected a professor who was the Dean of law. I can’t remember the city anyway, it doesn’t matter. But I tried to imagine also the idea that as professors, as teachers, as educators, our role is so much bigger than disseminating knowledge. It’s about speaking to the future and speaking to young people. For me, this is a particularly important moment for this exhibit and for us to be talking about academics. Because I feel right now that in this country in the United States, academics and professors and knowledge and knowledge production are being attacked vigorously by right wing pundits and politicians. But also in the current situation in Gaza, professors with great knowledge about the region are being sidelined by these very. Reductive narratives about what’s happening. I think it’s especially important that we guard the role, not just of academics, but of education and educators for the future. It’s a great honor to be with you all. I hope you appreciate the work of the exhibit. It comes from people from all over the world and also people who felt compelled to respond. Because many of these academics, we don’t even know what happened to them. We just know that they died. And that’s it, thanks to Bo, especially for his dogged persistence, Iraq, and the role of the United States in occupying and invading Iraq in the hearts and minds of many of us, especially artists. Thank you. Thank you, Price and Bo for your contributions and for your advocacy. I just want to mention in the exhibition, we have tried to offer additional connection to the lives of these academics who were assassinated by tracing their legacies, and including where we could, examples of their publications, their photographs. Memorials from their communities remembering them after they have died. And in the case of Dr. Leyla G. Side who persis memorialized, she had a Phd in Law from Mussel University. Very significant, very prolific writer, an amazing scholar. And in the exhibition in the lobby you will find that we have included with the memorial that Pers provided, we have included her full CV and a photograph of her. So I hope you will take a look as you’re leaving. So thank you so much for your attention. Please feel free to continue the conversation and to approach any of our panelists with your questions. Thank you, especially to our Iraqi attendees who have been so generous with their time and with their insights. And thank thank you for being here. Take care, I’ll tell.