The Paintbrush And The Fight Against Extremism: The Struggles Of Iraqi Kurdistan Through Art

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

kurdish-art-screwAs we have discussed many times free speech can be a powerful weapon against the injustices and in the case of the Islamic State, genocide. A new exhibition in the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan in Northern Iraq provides through art an interpretation of the struggle faced by ordinary individuals at the hands of extremists. It ties not only differing cultures but transcends the fences of language that are often barriers to understanding and empathy.

The Dohuk Art Gallery featured thirty artists organized by the Center for Graphic Art in Northern Iraq for the purpose of contributing to the fight against the Islamic State. It is not just conventional war implements that further the battle, but it is often the case of ideals, allegiances, and blind faith that aids the Islamic State.

Artists featured in Dohuk Gallery seek to change these beliefs through painting the atrocities prosecuted against the Kurdish People in an artistic representation showing the honor in protecting their society and humanity in general. Niquash reporters interviewed several participants bringing their thoughts and reflections to canvas and clay.

Duhok Gallery, Iraqi Kurdistan



Shiraz Aziz, a Kurdish artist, discussed how artists can be like politicians in mobilizing popular opinion: “It is all about local artists supporting local troops who are fighting against the extremists. The role of the artist is to highlight the terrible acts the extremists have undertaken and their impact upon society. And that’s what the artists in this exhibition have tried to do.”

Hassan Abdul Ghafoor created an obelisk shaped sculpture. “I wanted to show the long history of the Kurdish people through this,” the artist explains. “I also wanted to emphasis the negative role played by the extremists in the way they demolish ancient sites, shrines and mosques and churches – all of which represent humanity’s legacy here. Our presence here depends on our troops, who’ve been fighting the extremists for months and sacrificing their lives. That is why they deserve our appreciation and respect. They are our protectors.”kurdish-art-refugees

A painter, Fatah Mohammed’s works attracted much praise and attention during the exhibition by representing a peaceful co-existence within the diversity of Iraqi society. “This country was – and it will continue to be – a land of peaceful coexistence, regardless of one’s sectarian, ethnic or religious origin,” the artist noted. “Iraq’s diverse society was behind the country’s prosperity. Many lived peacefully together until the Islamic state militants arrived, with the darkness of their clothing reflecting the darkness of their thoughts. My painting is also a call for society to react positively to the different minorities who have made their way to safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.”kurdish-art-persmerge-sniper

Graphic Artist Faman Ismael focused on the ingredients to life but added a political aspect. He stated: “You cannot choose your country, or your color. No matter how powerful you are, you may one day find yourself in a different land, with people who speak differently and who believe in different things. And that is why we shouldn’t crush any sector of society just because it is different. The Islamic State group wants to do this. It comes to impose black on everyone. In my artwork I wanted to say that life is only beautiful if we appreciate all the colors we can see.”kurdish-art-horror

Dlovan Mohammed Amin, an art critic, praised the works as powerful in bringing an understanding of what faces his society. “Exhibitions like this are particularly important at times like this. It was able to reflect some of the tragedies that had befallen the people in this area and it has been able to feature some of these issues and this is the real role of art in life. The artists are fighting the Islamic State group with their wonderful work.”

Artists provide both a window into their minds as well as those of the society and time for which they live within. Art is often a key to open the door to empathy.



By Darren Smith


Duhok Gallery Photo Credits

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

9 thoughts on “The Paintbrush And The Fight Against Extremism: The Struggles Of Iraqi Kurdistan Through Art”

  1. Perhaps public television could make a documentary of this exhibit. People here have no idea what the people in the ME face every day. Public television is heavily supported by liberals. They probably don’t see any of this horror because most of the media don’t show it. I saw a photo of a little Iraqi girl,
    5-6, with her head next to her body. Reminded me of the holocaust. After 9/11 people were angry and supported military response. I couldn’t look at that photo without feeling the same way.

  2. Speaking of world events, Al-Qaeda offshoot Al Shabab just killed 28 nonMuslims in Somalia.

    Homicidal maniacs are taking over the region. I feel so sorry for non-Muslims, and moderate Muslims, trapped in these countries.

    Nick – I’ll have to check out Infidel. I have Honor Diaries already. I have followed the war on women in the ME from before it was cool.

  3. Karen, Did you read Hirsi Ali slammed out of touch western feminists for obsessing on trivialities like the shirt a man wears. I wonder just how many alleged feminists have read her superb book, Infidel. For me, it was an eye opener.

  4. Great article.

    Everyone has tried to wipe the Kurds out, it seems. Lately it’s ISIL.

    Art can powerfully convey the emotions and challenges of the issue. I hope this exhibition bridges gaps.

    And most of all, I hope extremism and ISIL are finally crushed, and there is peace and safety for the Kurds, everyone coexisting peacefully together.

  5. This was the wrong thread, Darren. I thought I did it one the Spain thread but possibly it was a brain fart. I’m thinking of the software glitch from yesterday.

  6. While in many respects Spain is a great country, w/ GREAT food and people, they still carry the scars of Fascism. The Basque region is also a group of people who want their freedom. Seems some here have a little fascism in them, wanting to keep people under the control of the state, “for the greater good.”

  7. This is universal.


    My…Boomerang wont come back!
    My Boomerang woont come back.
    I’m ..the biggest disgrace to the aborigine race!
    My Boomerang won’t come back!

    I can… ride a kangaroo.
    Eat dick too.
    I’m the biggest disgrace to the aborigine race…
    My Boomerang wooon’t come back!

  8. Thanks Darren for showing and sharing with us at least one positive way the locals are handling the extremely difficult situation they find themselves in. Inspiring!

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