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‘Love is the best medicine for Iraq’

Teenaged artist tells the Star how she hopes her paintings will communicate the voice of Iraqi women to the world

DISABLED teenage Iraqi artist Samaa al-Ameer insisted that “love is the best medicine” for her country today as she hoped to use her paintings to communicate the voice of Iraqi women to the world.

Ms Ameer, 16, spoke to the Morning Star hoping to spread a Valentine’s Day message of “peace, tolerance and love” as the country spirals into violence and chaos, with armed militias and Iraqi security services attacking those demanding change.

She explained how the anti-government protests started in October with Iraqi youth raising the slogan “scared people cannot create freedom.”

But Ameer said that she was saddened to be prevented from accompanying her father to the demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square “because of my disability.”

“I knew the amazing role of the Iraqi women there, especially the young ones, having seen their images on television screens and in photographs,” she said.

Her mother suggested that she made some paintings of the demonstrations and presented them as gifts to the protesters.

“I made two paintings; one of them is titled ‘The Rain of Iraq Hearts’ and I published them. But I said that any cultural activity is meaningless without going to Tahrir Square,” she said.

She explained that her mother had to work hard to convince her father to take her to the square, which has been central to the uprising and the scene of a violent backlash with security services firing teargas and live bullets at those gathered there.

Ameer’s mother heard her speaking of her sadness at being unable to attend the protests and meet the young people demanding revolutionary change.

She persuaded her father to allow her to attend “because she knows very well that I am a girl of principles and she teaches me the importance of making my words correspond with my actions.

“My father and mother took me to Tahrir Square on the last day of 2019. I found there a beautiful picture of Iraq and l looked attentively at the Freedom Monument,” one of the city’s most well-known and best-loved statutes and a symbol of revolution.

“Because my country has suffered from difficult and critical circumstances, I raised two banners announcing my campaign for spreading a culture of love, peace, tolerance, and co-existence, banishing hatred,” Ameer explained.

The banners read “Love is the best medicine for Iraq” and “by love we can build Iraq.”

Samaa told the Star that she hoped to use her artwork to raise the voice of Iraqi women who are playing a leading role in the uprising.

Scores have been killed and arrested in protests across the country, but refuse to be intimidated.

Hundreds of women took to the streets of Baghdad on Thursday in defiance of a bid by Islamist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to enforce gender separation in the rallies.

They said they refused to allow Iraq to become “another Iran” after Mr Sadr accused protesters of using drugs and alcohol, a practice he derided as “immoral” insisting women should not be present in the squares.

After Thursday’s march Mr Sadr warned it was full of “nudity, promiscuity, drunkenness, immorality, debauchery ... and non-believers” to discourage further participation.

The influential leader initially supported the protest movement, but has since come out in opposition and called for Iraqi’s to support new Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi.

But the youth-led protest movement has rejected his appointment seeing him as part of the corrupt elite they are trying to overthrow.

At least 600 people are believed to have been killed since the uprising began.

Ameer called for an end to the violence and urged Iraqi’s to “fill your heart with love to build your country.”

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