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Iraq, 2020-2022

"We used to have one Saddam, now we have thousands” With a distant look and a soft voice, Mustafa tells me these words on a warm September evening in Baghdad. His words are reminiscent of those of so many Iraqis, who have lost all hope and purpose during the years of conflict and violence that still plague Iraq today.

Violence seems to have become a self-perpetuating social process in Iraq, as the country's history has been marked by a succession of traumatic events. Since the reign of the despot Saddam Hussein, during which it was elevated to the rank of a political virtue, the country seems to be immersed in a genuine ethos of violence that has left a vivid mark on the country's collective memory and still prevents any reconciliation and reconstruction.

For decades, the war has killed, mutilated, and grieved millions of Iraqis, affecting every aspect of their lives. Today, society finds itself brutalised by this permanent state of war that has lasted for 40 years.
For the younger generations, every in-between period has been one of deprivation, hyper-militarisation, and total loss of future prospects.

The imaginary of death and suffering is omnipresent, amplified by the ambient martyrology of the Shiite religion, which places at the heart of its rituals the story of the violent death of Imam Hussein, whose blood soaked the soil of the holy city of Karbala.

And yet, the issue of trauma is a thorny one, with a particularly strong stigma towards anything to do with psychological problems. Mental health issues are seen as an anomaly, a weakness or the work of a 'jinn' that can only be cured by prayer or isolation. With only about twenty recognised psychologists in the whole country, how can the wounds of the past be properly healed ?

This project attempts to answer this question, suggesting different mechanisms that Iraqis turn to in order to ward off this veritable syllogism of trauma and despair. The revival of religion, art in all its forms, popular uprising with the 2019 revolution, but also the reiteration of violence, seem to be as many mechanisms that stem from this delicate relationship that Iraq has with its brutal past.

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