“I met Iraqi poetry only recently but she was too pretty for me to leave.” — Ali Atik
It was an honour to gather on Sunday last with Irish and Iraqi poets and musicians in The Dublin Writers Museum on Parnell Square, in honor of Al Mutanabbi Street. The street is one of the oldest and best known streets in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. On March 5th, 2007 a car bomb detonated on Al-Mutanabbi Street ripping through the thousand-year-old book market and killing several dozen people, injuring hundreds, and decimating a traditional center for literacy and debate. The bomb was an attack on writers and booksellers. It had the express goal of disrupting free speech.
Iraq has been through a lot since then and the 2003 invasion. Sunday’s Arabesque event was one of Remembrance and Reconciliation. It sought to foster conversation about the importance of free exchange of ideas and the protection of cultural expression.
The Dublin Writers Museum overlooks The Garden of Remembrance where The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge invoked the historic and sometime painful relationship between Ireland and Britain on Tuesday and laid a wreath. The inscription on the wreath read: “May we never forget the lessons of history as we continue to forge a brighter future together.
On Sunday I sat in the 18th-century writers room surrounded by sculptures and paintings of Irish writers with close ties to Dublin: Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats and Brendan Behan. I listened intently to the modern day Irish and Iraqi poets and musicians Jamal Al-Baou, Mohammed Syfkhan, Pat Boran, Thomas Vaughan, Catherine Ann Cullen, Aziz Abushark, Fiona Bolger, Ali Atkik and Abdullah Al-Bayyari as they shared their crafts.
The cubes below highlight the plight of 1/3 of 324 academics that have been assassinated in Iraq since 2003.