On war emblem, scenes of hope
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published April 30, 2007
BAGHDAD - It was something you don't see every day on the streets of Baghdad, a man squatting on the sidewalk, earnestly dipping a brush into yellow paint, then sweeping it onto a concrete wall.
But a group of Iraqi artists - Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and others - have come together to beautify a stretch of the bleak, gray blast barriers on central Baghdad's Saadoun Street erected to protect the area from car bombings and other attacks.
The murals range from the pastoral to the historical - with scenes from the era of the Babylonian King Hammurabi.
"About 80 Iraqi artists ... decided to participate in this initiative in a bid to bring happiness and joy to the Iraqis who see these walls everywhere and every day and can't do anything about it, " Talib Muhsin said as he painted a 2 1/2-by 10-yard scene of a palm grove with white birds.
The initiative comes as Iraqis are engaged in a fierce debate over a wall under construction elsewhere in Baghdad.
The U.S. military announced earlier this month that it was building a 3-mile long, 12-foot tall security barrier in Azamiyah, a Sunni stronghold in northern Baghdad whose residents often fall victim to retaliatory mortar attacks by Shiite militants following bombings usually blamed on Sunni insurgents.
U.S. and Iraqi officials say the plan was aimed at protecting the neighborhood. Residents and Sunni leaders complain the wall was discrimination that would isolate the community.
"We want at least to beautify these walls as long as we can't move them, but we are afraid that some walls can't be beautified anymore as they make very hurtful impressions on the souls of Iraqis like the Azamiyah one, " said Muhsin, a 42-year-old artist.
"This exhibit, which is the biggest one in Iraq, has two goals. The first one is that we are trying to help Iraqis to coexist with these concrete barriers and accept them in their life as de facto and can't be moved - at least for the time being, " Muhsin said.
"The second one that we Iraqi artists wanted to say that Iraqis are like other communities who love peace and want to get rid of this situation to live normal life."
The latest in Iraq
Violence: Iraqi police reported at least 52 people were killed or found dead nationwide Sunday.
- A British soldier was shot to death Sunday in Basra.
- Deaths from an attack Saturday in Karbala rose to 68.
Military: U.S. troops arrested 72 suspected insurgents Sunday in Anbar and Salahuddin provinces.
Rebuilding: Iran agreed Sunday to attend an international conference on Iraq this week, raising the possibility of a rare direct encounter between high-level U.S. and Iranian officials. Representatives from Iraq's other neighbors, Egypt, Bahrain and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members will meet Thursday and Friday in Egypt.
- President Bush won't sign any war spending bill that penalizes Iraq's government for failing to make progress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.
[Last modified April 30, 2007, 02:26:08]
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