Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Son of Babylon - The Forgotten Horror of Iraq's Missing

I have just returned from the Greenbelt Festival at Cheltenham. As usual it was nice to bump into folk and meet old friends. However, I was not greatly inspired by this years theological talks line up, but plenty of others obviously were, as 100's packed in to see this years headliners - many again from the USA - including Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.

Hundreds of people also attended the different events associated with the Just Peace Campaign on Israel/Palestine highlighted by Greenbelt over the last 3 years - with many workshops and installations around the site sharing the Palestinian experience of the conflict.

Being free of the urge to attend the theological talks allowed me to enjoy the music this year and I spent more time listening to some passionate and beautiful music by singer songwriters both the well known and not so well known than ever before.

But the highlight of the festival for me was going to see the film Son of Babylon by the Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji, tucked away in a small venue and attended by only 30 or so folk.  The film tells the story of a boy and his grandmother looking for her missing son of 12 years - the boy's father- in post invasion Iraq. The compelling story highlights the forgotten reality of the thousands upon thousands (some say the numbers go over 1 million) of Iraq's missing who disappeared during the regime of Saddam Hussein and others since. The film took me right back to my own journey into Iraq in 2004. I was reminded of the amazing people I met then, the hospitality I received from people who often had very little and the stories I was told of lost relatives and their longing for information about where they were and what had happened to them.

At the end of the film the producer Isabelle Stead talked to the 15 of us who remained in the theatre about the film and the campaign that it has initiated into Iraq's Missing. I remember that at the time of the fall of Saddam there was a similar campaign to put resources into excavating the mass graves and finding the disappeared initiated by the Iraqi community in the UK.  That campaign was met with a total lack of enthusiasm from the then Blair government and from the occupation forces whose priorities appeared to be elsewhere!

The Iraq's Missing Campaign is having similar problems in  convincing both the present Iraqi authorities and the international community of the central importance of this endeavor to the healing of the peoples of Iraq. Check out the campaigns website, sign the petition and support it in any way you can. Also watch out for the screening of Son of Babylon on BBC 4 in the near future. Below are two interviews one with Mohamed Al-Daradji the film's Director and the other with Isabelle Stead the film's Producer  -who also talks about the Iraq's Missing Campaign

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