Raising awareness of Iraqi protests through art

The Halifax Iraqi community is coming together on Saturday to hold Art for Peace, an exhibition of international art at the Canada Games Centre.

The goal of the event is to raise awareness of what’s happening right now in Iraq, and to raise money for the injured.

“It’s very difficult to all of us,” says Aseel Mohammed Ali, the organizer of Art for Peace.

Ali, who still has family in Iraq, says that protests in the country have been happening for 74 days now.

“We have over 500 dead, 20,000 injured and hundreds missing,” she tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.

The protesters are fighting for human rights like access to education, clean water and electricity.

“These are rights we take for granted, yet my country bleeds for it,” says Ali. “And the Iraqi government has responded to those protesters with the live bullets and tear gas canisters to the head.”

But Ali says protesters have been using peaceful methods to show the government their concerns.

“Peaceful protesters have responded nothing but love, unity and they have turned all the streets into the beautiful artworks,” she explains. “They turn the city into a new city by doing all this art.”

Ali says that protesters have spent time cleaning the streets, painting murals, and organizing community events to boost morale.

“They create cleaning teams to clean the city, football games to play together, and live music concerts,” says Ali. “They used art to present their peaceful protesting and to show the high number of education and artistic people in Iraq.”

So the Iraqi community in Halifax decided to do something similar, and use art to raise awareness of the protests.

“They just want to show the world that they are peaceful protesters, and they are artists, they are not holding any guns or anything against the government,” says Ali.

Art for peace will feature the work of 17 different artists. Most are Canadian, but there are artists from Iraq, Sweden and Germany as well.

“We will have flower arrangements, glass painting, borrow trades, and traditional clothes, calligraphy,” says Ali.

The organizer says it’s hard to get in touch with her family members who remain in Iraq due to government restrictions.

“It’s very hard because the Iraqi government keeps cutting the internet in Iraq and by the pressure of the international community sometimes they open it for a few hours so we can just contact my family,” she says.

It’s hard for Iraqi citizens here in Canada to watch the protests from afar, and Ali says many times they feel helpless.

“We are just watching the news all the day, and we have nothing to do for them, because all the international communities and government around the world, they are not paying any attention,” she explains. “We need help to raise awareness. We have become their voices here in Canada.”

Ali says the Halifax Iraqi community is 500 strong, but she invited all members of the public to attend the Art for Peace event to finish up their holiday shopping.

“I hope all the Halifax community to come join us. It’s very beautiful and unique stuff,” she adds.

The funds raised from the event will be sent to a journalist in Iraq, to go towards buying medicine for those injured in the protests.

Art for Peace will take place at the Canada Games Centre in Clayton Park on December 14,