HELLO BAGHDAD

This blog shows everyday life in Baghdad. The Dutch journalists Paulien Bakker (text) and Marieke van der Velden (photography) travelled to Baghdad in 2011 and 2012 to portray the lives of ordinary people behind the enemy lines. The violence was in decline; people dared to hope again, and make plans for the future. How are they now?

Paulien returned to Baghdad in July 2014, just after IS took control over Mosul and declared their Islamic State. As Iraq was falling apart, she searched for twelve people who had made the biggest impression on her for their perseverance. What happened to them?

In 2011 a part of the photo series was published on LENS Blog of The New York Times, shown on TEDx-Baghdad and won the PANL-Award.

Wish you contribute? Send an e-mail to paulien.bakker@wxs.nl or info@mariekevandervelden.com

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SHORT DOCUMENTARY: HELLO BAGHDAD

A short documentary of 4 minutes (made by Marieke) showing Paulien working on the project: Hello Baghdad.

MEETING WITH AN IT-SPECIALIST

Sixteen-year-old Khduer ran into a burning restaurant on Christmas Eve of 2005 following a bombing, and freed a journalist from the LA Times. A few years later, working as an air conditioner repairman, he lost his left hand in an accident. All the stress turned inward with him and when I saw him in 2011, he weighed 224 kg and was battling a serious food addiction. 

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THE DOUBTS OF A MILITIAMAN

The 29-year-old Ali is an avid Moqtada al Sadr supporter. But recently Ali started to have second thoughts. He started studying philosophy, like his uncle, on a quest to find his own truth. Did Ali in 2014 join the fighters who swore to fight ISIS or did he follow in his uncle’s footsteps?

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IF YOU’D ASK ME!

For the accidental listener, the old men at the teahouse at Baghdad’s old souq sound very much like men watching a sports game. “If you’d ask me!” 83-year-old Shap Pnar Obeidy says. He is wearing a cap and leaning on his cane. “I would build an empire like at the time of King Faisal. Look at agriculture for example. We used to be exporters, now we depend on imports.”

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I WAS MEANT TO LEAD

After a long and unhappy marriage, Rawa found a way to express herself in modern dance. It gave her back her self esteem. Rawa’s charity organizes activities for sixty boys between five and eighteen who have ended up behind bars. She teaches them painting, calligraphy, photography, short stories, writing and computer skills, hoping to give them back a bit of their self esteem.

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SLUM PSYCHIATRIST DR. HAITHAM

With the help of Doctors without Borders, psychiatrist Dr. Haitham established a successful program for short-term psychiatric help in the slums of Baghdad’s Sadr City.

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AND THEN CORRUPTION CAME

It’s quiet in the barbershop. Saleh, a broad man in his forties with a receding hairline, tails to the door and looks at the families shuffling by: the pizza chef who puts pizzas into his mobile oven on the pavement, the passing cars. It’s still light. By nightfall, it’ll be busier. He shuffles on his slippers back and sits down in one of the yellow leather barber chairs.

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OLDEST PROFESSION IN THE WORLD

The Shiite thirty-something Hind grew up in Basra, close to Kuwait. At the end of the Gulf War, circumstances forced Hind into prostitution. She worked as a madam of the whores. Hind ended up in jail.

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DREAMING OF A NEW LIFE

Haki runs a beauty salon for women. In the increasingly religious Baghdad, a beauty salon was forbidden territory for men - yet it also gives extra status. Haki’s fame brought him customers from all over Baghdad.

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NO POINT IN WAITING 

A yellow cab slows down on the busy Abu Nawas Street and comes to a stop before the unobtrusive wide gate of the Mama Ayserschool. It’s half past eight.

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