Inside the Middle East
February 12, 2009
Posted: 635 GMT

Watch Jill Dougherty's report from February's Inside the Middle East:

Faruq Fouad, an Iraqi artist and an intellectual, was forced out of his Baghdad home by insurgents and for months squatted with his family on rooftops.

A US military unit met him while on patrol and later introduced him to CPT Brett Walker, a young American who served in Afghanistan and now at the end of his 14 month tour in Iraq. The two talked about philosophy, art and rock’n’roll…

Both believe that through arts they could bring change to Dora, a part of the capital that saw some of the worst violence. CPT Walker helps Faruq make one of his dreams of holding an art exhibition in Dora a reality. 

Filed under: Inside The Middle East •Iraq

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Nona   February 12th, 2009 6:55 am ET

Obviously this is a very subjective question, but my opinion is that art can bring better understanding among people through expression of shared experience and emotions that often can't be communicated as effectively through words. But artists have to be free to express themselves and allowed to portray unpopular opinions. That's why I really oppose the dismantling of the shoe statue in Iraq. Free societies can't exist if individuals are persecuted for expressing themselves and celebrating their individuality. Free societies exist when individuals are free to be different and to demonstrate their uniqueness without feeling threatened.

Unfortunately, the governments of many countries don't allow for free expression through art, speech or press. For art to be effective at uniting people, it can't be limited to government-approved messages.

Jim   February 12th, 2009 9:22 am ET


You are wise. I like your posts.

Professor   February 12th, 2009 9:39 am ET

Art in my opinion is very effective in delivering the message to a large segment of the population that would not be exposed to the message otherwise.

So, it is a very important tool... I have been to many Palestinian art exhibits around the US and they have done beautifully.

Professor   February 12th, 2009 10:35 am ET

If any one of you can find an english translation to this book "Warum Totest du, Zaid?" which means "Why do you kill, Zaid?" by Dr. Yurgen Todenhofer, a professor of International Law its an excellent reading.

The story of the young resistance fighter Zaid reflects the history of a nation struggling for freedom and dignity. Jürgen Todenhöfer meets people fighting both the occupying forces and the terror of al-Qaeda. He talks to 22-year-old Zaid, who has lost almost everything in this war and, like the majority of the Iraqi population, joined the opposition, and tells his distressing story.

This book challenges the powerful propaganda machinery of the US administration and the distorted picture it is painting of Iraq. Jürgen Todenhöfer wants to open up a path for truth and justice – justice for a tormented nation.

You can draw some similarities between the resistance in Iraq and the resistance in Palestine...

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 1:34 pm ET

I am amazed. As critical as I sometimes am at being moderated, and I have never used a bad word, CNN does tend to cover all bases. I love the question of art. I love art. It was said that during the Vietnam – U.S. "conflict" that many did not understand the human toll until the photographs of a few gifted people began to circulate. Perhaps art is a part of our taking responsibility, visually facing our choices. Societies who ban expression, my two cent opinion, must have a hard time facing those choices. Now I do believe in good taste and not hurting others. Violence and immorality should be banned. Wiser people than I have to make those distinctions. Everyone's scale probably varies and I don't judge. I do, but try not to judge. But art does seem a way to say things that we really cannot say with just words. As always Nona, I enjoyed your post. I really am trying to learn, as tedious as it is and as dense as I am.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 1:47 pm ET

Well said Prof. I live in a small town. I would love to see those exhibits. I have read and seen a few pictures, but I do realize that the poverty in Gaza is terrible. The world should be ashamed. These are proud, productive people. I don't believe in violence. Never will. I do believe in the right to exist and live good lives.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 1:50 pm ET

I have read that some governments don't allow personal freedoms, art included. There have to be some limits, but I think that stifling other opinions that do not match mine or my group, is wrong. People need the freedom to grow, to learn. If not, how can we ever hope to travel space or even like one another if our opinions do not match.

miriam   February 12th, 2009 1:56 pm ET

During the Holocaust, the Nazis used art as a method to deceive the outside world. In Theresienstadt, the victims were forced to produce art,music etc to fool the world that everything was fine. Fortunately, these people, many of them children, managed to draw and write pieces that reflected their real feelings, those feelings that they never survived to express in any other way.

Art can be a useful tool for expression during conflict, but art can lie aswell as tell the truth.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 2:46 pm ET

wow Miriam. Thanks for writing. I always trust art, to a degree. Learning is good. I can see, easily now that you mention it, that it can be deceitful. Thanks. It always shows one opinion, like millions exists. Like posts to sites. But, it can influence.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 2:47 pm ET

I did like the shoe statue. Made me think about another culture. I had never thought about shoes before. Just put them on.

Professor   February 12th, 2009 2:53 pm ET


Thank you for the compliment... but in all fairness the Gazan people problem is not poverty.... when I asked alot of the people in Gaza what would you like from us American people living in US... how can we help you.... the answer I got was please don't send us money... they did not need donations... they just needed people to know the horrible life they are living under occupation.... some people might say oh Israel pulled out of Gaza... but thats only to distract people from the truth.... The truth is that Palestinians not only in Gaza they still live under a horrible occupation that is stealing land and killing innocent civilians, women and children... Gaza's 1.5 million people have been under siege by the Israelis they live in a huge big prison... they cannot leave and no one can enter into Gaza including humanitarian aid without the approval of the Israeli Occupying Forces.

Professor   February 12th, 2009 2:56 pm ET


you mean just like the Israelis are doing today to decieve the outside world of the holocaust they are inflicting on the Palestinian people? Yes I agree with you.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 3:02 pm ET

Prof – I saw an elementary school photo, in Israel, with a concrete arch over it in case a missile hit. That upset me. I'm a visual person, in general. I see page numbers in tests. How do we achieve peace for everyone? You seem to think. How do Gaza and Israel co-exist without killing folks?

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 3:04 pm ET

Knowledge of this issue or not, I'm more a not person, that seems the big question. The U.S. manages to exist beside Canada and Mexico. How do countries on that continent exist beside each other??

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 3:09 pm ET

Prof – I read your post. I think if all the bombs and missiles stopped, the guards from Israel could stop. That is pretty simple. I'm a simple person. Blunt. If people care more about destroying, especially a country, that country does have the right to protect itself. Hard stuff, but true.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 3:11 pm ET

In the Holocaust, millions of people were exterminated. This is different. Darfur is a better example maybe. I do think it happened. Some don't.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 3:25 pm ET

I think people in general are more interested in space travel and CERN, although CERN maybe shut down till June. When they start up again and start splitting subatomic particles, you won't see me reading here. I think most are tired of people in that area shooting, bombing, and blowing themselves up for various reasons. I can't even imagine why. Blowing up others seems even worse. Of course in the U.S., we have violence too. Lots of it. Our prisons are overflowing. So how do countries there, including Israel, achieve peace?

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 3:52 pm ET

Prof – are you there??

Professor   February 12th, 2009 4:18 pm ET


Its not that simple.... the killing of Palestinians and stealing their homes started way before Hamas started throwing rockets.... even way before Hamas existed....

Professor   February 12th, 2009 4:54 pm ET


You have a poor population unarmed and occupied by a ruthless occupier who is willing to kill women and children and supported by the only super power with unlimited arms and weaponrey.

There has to be a willingness on the stonger side of the two to stop it... you cannot ask the weaker side to stop anything... they have nothing more to loose after loosing their family members, home and land.... but if there is a sincere willingness on the Occupier side to return to UN map of 1948 and return what was occupied since then then you might be able to convence the Palestinian side that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.... they can get back to rebuilding their homes, farms and factories and they will get busy in establishing their lives back..... but right now they are busy resisting....

mohammed gharbawi   February 12th, 2009 5:26 pm ET

i think an art gallery where photos of children and women who suffered during the israeli raids will be beneficial for the palestinian cause.
Art always carries that magic effect.

mohammed gharbawi   February 12th, 2009 5:28 pm ET

i think that gazans are more preoccupied with looking for bread than with art. in gazza, the question is about survival, not aesthetics.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 5:58 pm ET

hey Mo – I agree that photos and paintings show details that words can't show. Real people. But, we have all gotten so use to violence in real life and in films that I'm not sure how much it will help or matter, in general. Also, people in Israel might display their side the same way. Still, it's all interesting.

Prof – I hear you and understand, in a limited way, as a bystander obviously. I don't know who is willing to compromise what and when and where. I do think it is going to take compromise which means no one is going to get their own way one hundred precent. That is the definition of compromise. I hope both are willing and unbiased world leaders will step in to make it happen.

GLeigh   February 12th, 2009 6:12 pm ET

Mo – I agree. First the fire in the house has to be put out before the walls can be mended. First the people in Gaza need food and medical assistance, basics. Then the compromises and peace agreements can be worked out. Then the people of Gaza can go back to being self supporting as they have been in the past. Steps, best case. I don't know if these compromises and agreements can be worked out. For everyone's sake, I hope so.

world traveler   February 12th, 2009 6:34 pm ET

Art gives people a sense of dignity and hope; it can inspire and give peace. Art is a medium that allows a person to express feelings or thoughts. Art is the creative side of humanity, and provides a base for community, society, and culture.

I belive that art and music are the one true medium that can connect people in ways that bring understanding and compasion to us all.

Carlos   February 12th, 2009 9:13 pm ET

It always amazes me when one person can express their thoughts of how "if the rockets stop maybe there can be progress toward peace". There's always someone else that speaks up "there was stealing and killing before the rockets".

Nothing more need be said. This attitude simply shows the complete lack of desire for a peaceful solution. And it really is a truly absurd postion for someone to take who does not live within the conflicted area- but lives within the safety and security of the US !!!

Carlos   February 12th, 2009 9:39 pm ET


Before you go on about how "the people of Gaza can go back to being self supporting as they have been in the past".

Do some searching on this subject. Find out how many people are on the roles with UNWRA, recieving food, medical, money etc. How many rely on handouts from other orgs., etc. You'll be amazed! There's a very complete assessment of this situation in Gaza with repect to UNRWA on

A statement in one article i read struck me as being an extremely profound description of the stituation- "Normal refugee aid tends to focus on finding ways to resettle displaced people and integrate them back into normal, productive lives. UNRWA, by contrast, provides the main framework for ensuring that the official population of Palestinian refugees remains a swelling source of misery and mayhem–both for their neighbors and for the Palestinians themselves."

Pretty much says it all!

Professor   February 12th, 2009 10:23 pm ET


and what right do you have to make any position for either side while living in the comfort of your home in Portugal? No one really cares about your opinion or the opinion of all of Portugal....

Come on give me a break.... everyone with a little common sense knows that Israel has not been willing to make piece with Palestinians before Hamas came into existence... what was the excuse back then where there was no rockets?

Nona   February 12th, 2009 10:24 pm ET

Miriam makes a good point. Art, like speech, is a two-edged sword: it can be very effective, but it can also pervert and distort. Miriam's example of Theresienstadt is a great example, as are the famous staged photos of injured Palestinians that have been proven fakes. Stalin had artists paint magnificent portraits depicting of himself as a paternalistic protector of children and a benevolent "father" of his people; there's a huge amount of art and film from the USA depicting black slaves of the South as happy and healthy.

Art is also in the eye of the beholder. Look what happened when that Danish newspaper printed the cartoon of depicting Mohammed ... certainly a prime example of how "art" is subject to interpretation.

Art has power, and artists should be empowered, but certainly the power of art can be abused and misinterpreted.

Nona   February 12th, 2009 10:25 pm ET


Jim and GLeigh - many thanks for your kind words and humbling compliments. You made my day!

GLeigh   February 13th, 2009 3:10 pm ET

Nona – It was a sincere compliment.

Carlos – Read back far enough and that area was self sustaining. I don't know if will ever be again. Depends on the peace process and the incentives and how people feel about everything and if the world economy gets better. Right now, a lot of people need help everywhere.

WAT   February 13th, 2009 3:35 pm ET

art is a way to express ur feelings!! and by the way may not always be good for everyone. its a beautiful thing ART but when u use it hurt or blame others its WRONG!! it does help sometimes and some people but u must also be careful with wat u r trying to convey and make sure there r no doubts about it!!

Carlos   February 13th, 2009 10:48 pm ET

GLeigh February 13th, 2009 1510 GMT

Carlos – Read back far enough and that area was self sustaining. I don’t know if will ever be again. Depends on the peace process and the incentives and how people feel about everything and if the world economy gets better. Right now, a lot of people need help everywhere.


From the time Israel took control from Egypt in 1967 until they turned over control to the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Gaza was self sustaining. But then the Israeli settlers left, who ran an large portion of the farms and other businesses. From 1994 until 2000 the GDP shrank by 60% and they've been a chronic welfare state ever since. They just seem to be incapable of helping themselves:

Debra   February 17th, 2009 2:03 pm ET

If Carlos lives in Portugal, where do you live Professor?

Carlos   February 17th, 2009 5:37 pm ET

Debra February 17th, 2009 1403 GMT

If Carlos lives in Portugal, where do you live Professor?

Professor is somewhere in the US!!!

So what does that tell you?????

(No one else has any opinion or view that counts!)

Debra   February 17th, 2009 7:17 pm ET

You can say that again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Welcome to the Inside the Middle East blog where CNN's journalists post news, views and video from across the region. This is also a place where you can start the discussion so please keep your comments coming. We highlight not only current news stories but also anecdotes and issues that don't always make the top of the headlines.

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