Baghdad film festival addresses human rights issues

Participants in Baghdad's International Film Festival in 2007 stand in front of a promotional poster for an Iraqi movie. [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

Participants in Baghdad's International Film Festival in 2007 stand in front of a promotional poster for an Iraqi movie. [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

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The inaugural "Eye of Baghdad" film festival ended Tuesday (February 28th), an event that showcased films focusing on human rights issues.

The four-day festival featured both feature and documentary films covering three areas of human rights including violence against women, children's rights, and freedom of expression.

"The festival is considered a major experiment because it was the first time the country organised a film festival that focused on human rights issues," said Mufeed al-Jazayeri, chairman of the festival's organising committee.

"Because of its dramatic treatment of various human issues and problems, cinema can play a major role in delivering positive messages about these issues in an artistic way which offers both enjoyment and educational value at the same time," he said.

"We tried to use cinematic art as an educational tool and as a way to increase awareness about human rights and the principles which call for justice, equality, tolerance, and peaceful co-existence," al-Jazayeri said.

He said the messages in the films focused on basic issues such as renouncing all types of violence, combating segregation against women, guaranteeing children's rights, bolstering free expression of opinions and ideas, promoting acceptance of others, and fostering dialogue inside societies.

He said 11 documentary and feature films -- from Iraq, Egypt, Palestinian Territories, the United States, Afghanistan and Russia -- were shown at the festival.

"During the festival, we had discussion forums about the topics addressed in the films where researchers, intellectuals, and academics participated," al-Jazayeri said.

"The purpose of the forums was to discuss ways to improve human rights and raise awareness, particularly about understanding international conventions and agreements that are relevant to human rights that explain the nature of those rights, their importance, and how to defend them," he said.

Diversity of subjects

Hind al-Qaisi, head of public relations for the festival, said the event was supported by the Iraqi Society in Support of Culture, the Independent College for Cinema and Television, UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Needy People organisation, based in the Czech Republic.

She said the organising committee received 120 submissions from local and foreign filmmakers. The films were reviewed, and 11 were judged appropriate for the festival's three major themes. Al-Qaisi reviewed some of the films which were shown at the festival.

"There was an Afghani film titled 'Enemies of Happiness' which tells the story of an Afghani woman who made her way to parliament despite all the challenges she faced," she said. "There was an American film titled 'Um Sari', which was about an Iraqi lady who was striving to treat her AIDS-infected son, and a Palestinian film titled 'First Love' which was about three Palestinian girls living under extremely adverse conditions."

"Other films were shown that highlighted violations committed against children such as an Egyptian film called 'Live Skin' that addressed the suffering of children who are forced to do harmful jobs. An Iraqi film, 'Cola' was about a little girl who works at a trash dump, and the Russian film 'Children of the Leningrad Sky Station' sheds light on homeless children," he said.

The festival's final day was devoted to films about freedom of expression, the most prominent of which was an Iraqi film titled 'Sing Your Song' which was directed Omar Falah and produced by the Independent Cinema and Television College.

Kamil Ameen, spokesman for the Ministry of Human Rights, praised the festival's sponsors and organisers and called the festival a positive event.

"We need sponsorship for these film festivals that draw attention to human rights issues and the problems linked to them in order to promote the adoption of measures at legal and executive levels to find appropriate solutions for them," he said.

Ameen said the ministry "participated in discussion forums held during the festival where working papers were presented focusing on how to overcome all the obstacles that weaken human rights and how to confront those obstacles with all possible means".

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  • READER COMMENTS

    اسماعيل جودت

    2012-4-24

    The executive bodies of the Iraqi government have exercised and are still exercising different methods of torture in Iraqi prisons and campaigns of arbitrary arrests and raids. These are inconsistent with the provisions of the law of the democratic management of the world. They have even stood by in many cases, as spectators in front of armed militias that violated the rights of citizenship. In addition, we can say that the partisan forces have militias which operate under the application of Shariah, or similar laws, as it is in Iran. This is what is happening in the universities through the threat of death, if they don't separate the sexes. This is what happened in the beginning; for instance, forcing the students, "even those of non-Muslim religions," to wear the hijab. This was expressed by the Director of Education in Basra, who is from the 'Virtue Party.' In the Bulletin there were detailed instructions on how to dress in schools and what types of rings are allowed, as well as the types of beards and hair styles which an individual may follow. They also practice this in the street. This phenomenon has increased after the elections. The classes in many schools and universities have become religious places of this party or that; they analyze and expiate as they wish, with the silence of the Iraqi government and legal bodies, as well as the forces that advocate and continue advocating democracy, ensuring and assuring the rights of the individual. What happened at the University of Basra and the College of Dentistry in Baghdad is an extreme example of this, not to mention the kidnappings and arrests perpetrated against citizens without interference by the judiciary or the executive government. An egregious example of this is what has happened in many parts of Iraq’s regions: the complete violation of the rights of women.

  • محمودعيد

    2012-3-25

    Iraq is among the countries in which the democratic life has only existed a few years. I think that the Iraqi people as well as the governmental institutions are still at the beginning of their work, especially in the field of human rights, and everyone still has a lot of time, effort and procedures so that everyone will reach the stage of implementation of the human rights and the principles the right way. Many still do not understand what human rights are and how they can be applied. A lot of people might understand that the exercise of the human rights means to act as you want. This is wrong, of course, and there are a lot of practices that show that human rights in Iraq are still not mature and have not been properly applied. In a way we can say that the principles of human rights are applied completely knowing that.

  • ارشد

    2012-3-24

    I do not deny that the human rights situation is moving in the right direction. However, it does not go as fast as we wish, and I see that it must educate the general public about the human rights so that everyone understands what they have and what they must do. I am for the opening of sessions with the increase in the guidance of the security and military forces as well as all the institutions that have dealings with the citizens. They need to be aware of the principles of the human rights to see that there is a real application of them. Iraq is a country that is living in a state of development in this area. A lot of institutions and bodies deal with human rights and started to exercise their role more effectively than they did years ago. However, they still have a lot of work that can be done for the advancement of society and the education process which is the basis of the success of the application of human rights. We look forward to this and we see that Iraq is alive and well in this aspect. It has a lot of steps in this aspect and we are expecting all the best in our country. We see that the human rights began to be activated significantly, but we demand more for Iraq to be the model in this area.

  • احمد ناظم

    2012-3-15

    Saddam persecuted the Iraqi people for 35 years, and now there is Al-Maliki, who didn’t carry out his pledge. Why is the world silent regarding what is happening in Iraq, in terms of the killing and the destruction of what remains in the country? I don’t see any effort towards changing the current criminals; they took the country down.

  • احسان داود

    2012-3-13

    Iraq is going through a very critical time due to the political changes that have occurred in the Iraqi political regime and the transition that happened in the country. This is especially true of the transition that is related to the new political regime that is oriented to transforming into the democratic regime of rule. This is in addition to granting the Iraqi people a great range of freedom and human rights that were missing in the previous regime. This requires more struggle and great commitment between the Iraqi people and its new government, which believes in positive ideas with the neighboring countries of Iraq, including the Arab countries that are connected with Iraq through the connection of brotherhood and the factors of descent and intermarriage between the brothers. This is in order to let Iraq get through this crisis, which is due to the greediness and the international agendas that are being implemented on behalf of the terrorist organizations and the various armed groups against the Iraqis. All these murderers and criminals are seeking to destabilize the security status and to arouse terror and fear in the country, in order to achieve their evil ideas in order to abort the new political status and the direction that is sought by the politicians in Iraq towards the development, nourishment and putting Iraq’s wealth in the service of the Iraqi citizen. The Iraqi citizen has suffered during the previous years from poverty, hunger and diseases.

  • نوري ثامر

    2012-3-10

    Where are the human rights in this country? There were only injustice, oppression, suffering, bitterness, pain, woe, weeping, wailing, shock, death, blood, patience that has no boundaries, and the parting of loved ones as well as receiving their cut and bloodied bodies. I confirm that and I have evidence to prove that all the Iraqi people have taken their human rights through murder, torture, beheadings, kidnappings, assassinations, bombings, suicide operations, poverty, hunger, unemployment, negligence, and failure to provide services. There is deceit done by the media broadcasting propaganda against the sons of the poor Iraqi people and the wounded. Allah is sufficient because He is the best protector.

  • عيسى

    2012-3-10

    The human rights situation in Iraq is non-existent. It is difficult to find the rights of humans anywhere because they are just words that are repeated among the people in order to numb the nerves. If we assume that there are human rights in Iraq, where are they in reality? What has been implemented from among the terms and requirements of the human rights? For instance, food rationing is one of the usurped human rights, or interrupted electricity, or failure to provide good schools, or high prices of treatment, or displaced families which are living in ruins and places that cannot even be considered a residence. These are the aspects of human rights in Iraq. They beat people, torture them or cause them disability if they go out to the streets demanding their usurped rights. This is not an indication of freedom or democracy in the country and it is also not human rights. It is the lack of employment opportunities and the widespread phenomenon of poverty, hunger, administrative and financial corruption, as well as the spread of drugs and moral corruption. Where are the human rights in Iraq from all these things? Who are the specialists in this aspect so the people can talk to them, argue about their human rights and make them available for the Iraqi people? Electricity, water, paved roads, and services should have been provided years ago; however, until now, they have not been provided and there are no residential complexes that have long been heard of by the Iraqi citizens.

  • عبدالرزاق علي

    2012-3-7

    The sons of the Iraqi people should be considered, as they are the sons of a country that has a lot of injustice, violence, terrorism, negligence and neglect, and deprivation of all rights that are the legitimate right of each Iraqi individual.