[Translation of Fideel, which appeared in the newspaper ‘Het Parool’.]

Father Yaseen has a photo studio in Bagdad, where people have come for years and years to have their portrait taken. The pictures are oddly formal. For portraits of brothers and sisters, for instance, only three poses are available; in all three the brother sits in a chair, while his sister stands behind him. And photographing was never easy: the photographer may never touch the women, so that it could prove difficult to get them in the right position.

Zaid and his brother worked in their father’s studio. Zaid noticed how the photographs were changing in the course of the years. In the eighties for instance, they often were asked to construct a portrait out of old snapshots, and the portrait had to be adorned with a black ribbon. Those were the mourning pictures for young men who had died in the war with Iran. Or they were the young men who didn’t want to fight in that war, and who were shot as deserters.

In the nineties, the Yaseen family mostly photographed children. Those portraits were utterly romanticised: colourful, Disneyesque backgrounds were used, so that it looked like all Bagdad children were living in a fairy tale. While earlier mothers would pose proudly with their children, they were now slowly disappearing from the photographs. They hid themselves behind their children, or they were cut out of the picture.

The Yaseen family are Sunnites, and the much more rigid Shiites were gaining ground in Bagdad. Father Yaseen started to receive threatening letters in which he was called a traitor. People would enter the shop and take down portraits of women. Zaid’s brother was attacked by men carrying guns with silencers. Zaid fled to the Netherlands, where he asked for asylum and studied photography.

By now, the Iraqi Shiites believe that people and animals may not be portrayed at all. Hence the departments of sculpture, theatre and photography of the Bagdad University have been closed.

The Dutch IND (Immigration Services) do not dispute Zaid’s story. They just think that the threats and the violence have nothing to do with his profession. Such violence is normal in Bagdad they say, and Zaid is not at more risk than any other Iraqi. They informed Zaid that he has to return to Iraq this month.

The only thing that Zaid has to do, the IND said, is to give up photography. That’s exactly what the Shiites think as well. How loyal of the IND to help the Shiites to implement their policy from within the Netherlands!

Author: Spaink

beheerder / moderator

One thought on “Loyalty”

  1. Karin, your English teaching background shows (considering IND plural).

    I would’ve changed ‘may’ to ‘could’, but then again, you don’t cater to the stupid, so it might as well be may.

    Oh, etenstijd. Dada!

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