Blix' Glasses - a memorial to the Iraq War (2008)
with carpet, table, chessboard
publication, on line component. Encounters.
Shown at: The National Gallery, Denmark (Statens museum for
or mouse over the icons in the image below for interaction--
In this project I wanted to consider how a monument to the Iraq war
could look like. The Installation was consisting of a reinterpreted
Persian rug that covers key events in Denmark's participation in the
Iraq war (mouse over below). During the exhibition, I
played chess with resident Iraqis and discussed ways in which the war
had affected society. Talks focused on contemporary art, media and
women's rights. With artist Hussein Tai the conversation was about the
situation for contemporary art and the possibilities of making art at
all. With Zakia Al-muomen, a woman rights advocate, I discussed the
women and with Al
kufani, another artist, the
was the media's role in relation to freedom of
Blix was the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification
and Inspection Commission from January 2000 to June 2003.
2002, the commission began searching Iraq for weapons of mass
destruction, ultimately finding none.
Powell in UN
Thursday, February 6,
"The material I will present to you comes from a variety of sources.
Some are U.S. sources. And some are those of other countries. Some of
the sources are technical, such as intercepted telephone conversations
and photos taken by satellites. Other sources are people who have
risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really
I cannot tell you everything that we know. But what I can share with
you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is
What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns
of behavior. The facts on Iraq's behavior demonstrate that Saddam
Hussein and his regime have made no effort -- no effort -- to disarm as
required by the international community.
Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his
regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass
"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources,
solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are
facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade
detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a
quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq
claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War."
Mouse over or click
icons on the carpet/
image above to read.
Declaration of war
B 118 (as put forward): Proposal for the parliament concerning Danish
participation in a multinational deployment in Iraq.
Put forward on the 18th of March 2003 by the foreign minister (Per Stig
The parliament announces it's concent to disposing danish military
forces to a
multinational effort in Iraq. (notes for the proposal is to be found
B 118 (som fremsat): Forslag til folketingsbeslutning om dansk
militær deltagelse i en multinational indsats i Irak.
Fremsat den 18. marts 2003 af udenrigsministeren (Per Stig
Forslag til folketingsbeslutning om dansk militær deltagelse
i en multinational indsats iIrak
Folketinget meddeler sit samtykke til, at danske militære
styrker stilles til rådighed for en
multinational indsats i Irak.
[Uddrag fra begrundelsen]
IV. Ved vurderingen af den foreliggende situation har regeringen lagt
at Irak i flere tilfælde har anvendt
mod militære mål
at afvæbning af Irak er nødvendig for at fjerne
truslen mod den internationale fred og
sikkerhed i regionen,
at Irak over en årrække substantielt har
krænket sine nedrustningsforpligtelser i henhold
til FNs Sikkerhedsråds resolutioner,
at FNs Sikkerhedsråd med resolution 1441 af 8. november 2002
besluttede at give Irak
en sidste chance for at opfylde sine nedrustningsforpligtelser og
at Irak ifølge FNs våbeninspektører
ikke har overholdt kravene i resolution 1441 om
omgående, betingelsesløst og aktivt samarbejde,
at det må konstateres, at Irak dermed har forspildt sin
sidste chance i medfør af
at våbeninspektørerne og det internationale
samfund trods dette i en periode har fortsat
bestræbelserne på at tilvejebringe et egentligt og
frugtbart samarbejde med Irak m.h.p.
opfyldelse af landets nedrustningsforpligtelser,
at et sådant samarbejde ifølge FNs
våbeninspektører er en forudsætning for
gennemføre en fredelig afvæbning af Irak,
at det efter våbeninspektørernes rapport i FNs
Sikkerhedsråd den 7. marts 2003 må
konstateres, at disse bestræbelser trods et meget betydeligt
internationalt politisk og
militært pres har vist sig at være
at der bl.a. på baggrund af erfaringerne fra de seneste 12
års bestræbelser på at
nedruste Irak ikke er udsigt til at yderligere tid til forhandling og
inspektion vil kunne
frembringe det nødvendige irakiske samarbejde og dermed
sikre opfyldelse af landets
at fortsat manglende irakisk efterlevelse sammenholdt med vedvarende
fra det internationale samfunds side vil svække respekten for
at FNs Sikkerhedsråd tidligere har bemyndiget anvendelse af
militær magt mod Irak
m.h.p. gennemtvingelse af Sikkerhedsrådets krav og
betingelser, og at denne
bemyndigelse stadig står ved magt,
at gennemtvingelse af FNs Sikkerhedsråds krav, herunder som
en sidste udvej med
militære magtmidler, er nødvendig for at fjerne
truslen mod den internationale fred og
sikkerhed i regionen.
Regeringen finder det på denne baggrund velbegrundet, at det
anvender militære magtmidler til at gennemtvinge opfyldelsen
of August 2007: Defence Minister Søren Gade (V) had to
seek cover from rocket
attacks on several occations when he officially closed the Danish camp
developed in the Middle East and was used as allegory for the conflict.
In the exhibition period, I played chess with resident Iraqis and
discussed the situation after Denmark officially pulled out of Iraq.
Here the artist Al Kufani (to the right).
the book Hans Blix's glasses, PDF, 25 pages
Blix was the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification
and Inspection Commission from January 2000 to June 2003. In 2002, the
commission began searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction,
ultimately finding none.
[As of 11th February 2008]
Iraqi deaths caused by war and war-related violence.
Estimated 600.000 (which would represent 2.5 percent of Iraq's
Source researchers from Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of
[As of 11th February 2008]
soldiers killed in Iraq
7 [As of 11th February 2008]
4257 (3950 US)
[As of 11th February 2008]
February 15, 2003
The February 15, 2003 anti-war protest was a coordinated day of
protests across the
world against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Millions of people
approximately 800 cities around the world. According to BBC News,
between six and
ten million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over
the weekend of
the 15th and 16th; other estimates range from eight million to thirty
Sunday, 16 February,
2003, 04:10 GMT
'Million' march against Iraq war
Police said it was the UK's biggest ever demonstration with at least
part, although organisers put the figure closer to two million.
Monday, 17 February,
2003, 13:01 GMT
Millions join global anti-war protests
Between six and 10 million people are thought to have marched in up to
over the weekend - the largest demonstrations of their kind since the
Tai, b 1966, Iraq
Visual Artist living in Copenhagen
Educated from The College of Fine Arts, Baghdad, Iraq, 1992
Meeting 13-02-2008 in Copenhagen
transcript of parts of our conversation
Nis: ...In this project the level of international politics is
cross-sectioned with the
experience of the war described by individuals, mainly Iraqis living in
Hussein: As Iraqi i was happy when Saddam was removed. But today people
the whole region come to fight the Americans. There are positive things
war and very negative things in my view. I hope for more security and
stability in the
coming years, but right now I am a pessimist. I come from Baghdad and
lives there, that is what I know the best and hear most about. Baghdad
because all religious groups live there side by side, and this is right
now cause for
Nis: Since you are an artist as well, I am interested in hearing about
situation is in Baghdad in regards to visual art, is it made at all? is
the art academy
Hussein: It's in operation but not as before, they have the same
but instability makes it hard or impossible to work. One positive thing
is that back
then you were very much told what to do. The Bath party controlled the
sector, and the university under which the art academy rests. To get in
you had to be
a member of the Bath party. Bath was Saddam's party, and if you were
making portraits you were told to do portraits of the president
(Saddam). It was your
duty then, you couldn't say no.
Nis: Back then it was only figurative painting?
Hussein: It was an academic system, the first years were mandatory
the last year ones own project. But nothing abstract or modern. You
mainly did what
you were told - a classical school.
Nis: Have you got a sense of what is going on today?
Hussein: I have seen some reports in television. There is more freedom
but on the
other side also bad things like in: Making paintings to be sold. That
But there is also lack of professors and teachers, some have fled from
are dead. The most important and strongest teachers are not at the
Nis: From where do you get your information in terms of staying up to
date on the
war and the situation in Iraq?
Hussein: I watch the Arabic channels; Al Jazeera, Al Arabia, and from
Baghdad, bad news mostly. You see places you know and remember now
ruined it's depressing. Sometimes I stop seeing the news for that
cultural treasures and places of interest to artists and intellectuals
destroyed even though the shouldn't be a part of the conflict. Today
there is by large
not being produced any art and culture in Iraq. Cultural life is almost
Nis: Is there an Iraqi cultural life in Denmark, there are 25.000
Iraqis living here.
Hussein; Yes round about that figure, there are 10-12 visual artists,
the arts academy or arts high school (there are two art schools in
Baghdad), but very
few, if any, are living from their art. There is no community or union
of Iraqi artists.
Artists also work on their own mostly.
Hussein: Previously there were no problem between Sunni and Shia. You
think about which religion other people had, but in what was in common.
has changed, fundamentalism have sneaked in among other reasons because
groups from outside have come in and radicalised the conflict. Both the
the Shias have fundamentalist parts that has been strengthened during
Nis: What do you think in the longer run, will the radical be the ones
in power and
setting the agenda of will people become weary of war?
Hussein: The politicians are splitting the country between religions
parties follow the religious groupings. This is increasing the
conflict. If they change
and start working on basis of what is best for Iraq, not the religious
or the ethnic,
then there is hope for a better development.
with Zakia Al-muomen
Nis: Could you talk about what you did in Iraq when you lived there?
Zakia: At first i worked, then I got married, we had three children and
I was a
housewife. My husband was a Ph.D., highly educated, our economy was
had a fish farm back in the 1980´ties. Then came the
Iran-Iraq war. War is
everywhere a catastrophe that brings depression; socially,
Back then it was not as hard as today, the war was not in the city and
worked - not perfect, but we could live our lives. But we were
personally hit and lost a
son 19 years old in the war. It is now almost 30 years ago, but it
still lies heavy on
things. The world went black after that.
We couldn't get away, and my husband couldn't leave because of his
background. We were forced to help our other son to escape from Iraq,
for him not
also to end up in war. After 8 years of war it was a relief that it
Just as our lives was starting to return to normal again Saddam started
of Kuwait. This had big consequences on the people of Iraq and on us.
made orphanages, women became single parent which is a special problem
women in general are dependent on their husbands in Iraq. It became
hard to get
something to eat, there was a constant lack of supplies. People with
educations started leaving; doctors, scientists, artists - those who
could contribute to
society. They left because of the war but also because Saddam didn't
like them as
they were harder to control.
Nis: So it was because of the invasion that the intellectuals started
leaving and the
Zakia: Yes Saddam controlled food and medicine. Saddam was getting
richer, but people poorer and the standards of living fell. The
didn't affect Saddam at all only the population. It was Saddam that
should have been
removed it was his fault that we lost our country. Before the first
Golf War people
mainly escaped for political reasons, after - it was also for social
We decided to leave to give our children better conditions, schools
were bad, the
economy, we disagreed with Saddam's politics. There were many
diseases after the chemical bombs. This was in 1993.
It was not easy to go to an unknown world, we lost almost everything.
We travelled to
Denmark because my son and daughter lived there. It was hard, another
mentality. We had a large house, 2 cars and a high standard of living,
and came to
the asylum centre where we lived the whole family in a 2 room apartment
for 1 1/2
Nis: I would like to hear about women's role in society and how it has
Zakia: Before the whole population was repressed, both men and women.
positive thing was that women could dress as they wanted. Now we hear
media and from friends in Iraq that if a woman is walking down the
street without a
scarf she will be killed, murdered. This also happens within
university. A man and a
woman was killed because they sat on the same bench and talked
had been forced to wear a scarf.
The daughter in law: This reminds me of a story that my father told: He
in the university before he fled in 1978. As he told it, it was
wonderful to go to
university, women wore the latest fashion and miniskirts. Three years
ago he went
back to visit his mother and friends. He also visited the university
and was shocked to
learn that most women wore scarf's. Only very few didn't, but were
covered in some
other way. He was expecting a fashion show (laughter)
Nis: Culturally its a step backwards?
Daughter in law: Yes its a big step backwards also in relation to
women's rights. The
schools used to be mixed, men and women. Now they have been forced to
people. This has happened mainly after 2003 and for one reason because
interfered in the country.
Nis: Can women take part in public debates?
Zakia: Free speech for women is not really happening. Those who have
power are Islamic parties that are against women's freedom and free
Islamic parties interpret Islam in a way that women are inferior to
men, this is a
Women's conditions now in Iraq is a catastrophe. Many women live below
line because they don't have a husband. It is difficult getting a job.
Many women in
Iraq are both mum and dad and because the economy is bad they cannot
enough money to buy the most basic things that a child needs like food,
Society had started looking at women in a different way, because of
people who use
religion as an excuse to take us 100 years back, now women have to stay
wear a scarf etc
Interview with Kufani at The Danish
National Gallery, 16th of February 2008
M. Mahdi Alturaihi (Kufani)
Visual artist, calligrapher, photographer
Born in alkufa Iraq, 1970.
Lives in Sakskøbing, Denmark
Nis; Can you tell about the media situation in Iraq and the Middle East?
Kufani: If something happens in Iraq I go to Al Jazeera. They have the
On other Arabic channels the news are slower, maybe without
graphical problems og poor images. Al Jazeera has also opened a channel
English. There are three major television channels: Al Jazeera from
Qatar, Al Arabia
from Saudi Arabia and a Lebanese channel. In Lebanon they have had a
and open society so artists and writers went there, this again affects
the news and
the general cultural climate there. Al Arabia and other stations are
Shia and are thereby contributing to a polarization and increased
Sunni and Shia. This creates big problems for people in Iraq. It is
There is by the way also an American run station in Arabic with Iraqi
"The Free One" (there is also a version covering the whole Middle
East). This station
of course supports USA's policy in Iraq and democratization in the
Middle East. It
broadcasts 24 hour a day and was started 3-4 years ago.
Local media and news are very much about daily problems like getting
electricity, water and about the rise in prices, nothing about culture
A lot of things are not working in Iraq, but the media are working
100%. If something
is wrong everybody goes to watch television. If something needs to
change then the
media needs to change too.
Kufani: Which Arabic or Danish media in Arabic tells about what Danes
think without mediation? for example about the Mohammed cartoons right
People go to media in the language they understand the best, that could
media like Al Jazeera, Al Arabia or Internet media. But they only get
the story seen
through a lot of indirect sources, not directly, and most likely not
seen from a Danish
perspective or in a Danish context.
Kufani: Previously many Arabic speaking foreigners used www.dr.dk,
could get sound and articles in Arabic. But about three years ago this
(the languages were as I recall; Arabic, Somali, Farsi and other
languages). Here you
could get an image of what happened in Denmark today. This exchange is
missing, and this is very important because a lot of people don't
well enough to read the news.
Nis: How did the media operate in Iraq in the beginning of the war?
Kufani: In the beginning the media disappeared, and nobody knew what
on, also because the power went away. But people find other
possibilities like running
radio and TV of car batteries. For me as an Iraqi living in Denmark Al
my main source of information. They broadcasted directly from Baghdad
time. Back then there were few independent Arabic newspages on the
made a propaganda TV station in Arabic in Iraq and other places, with
not to fight, surrender without fighting, this channel stopped
approximately a month
after the invasion.
Kufani: Today we need international media, dealing with Arabic culture.
The focus of
news from the Middle East has almost solemnly been on conflict and war,
culture has interest and relevance for many other people than Arabs.