Emad is a visual artist whose paintings have been exhibited around the world. He writes:
There’s a conflict between the unlimited happiness inside me and the oppression and grief I experienced years ago when I found myself as a part of the stupid adventures of political and economic wars that were imposed upon normal people. I paint a world that touches the unimaginable happiness that we need in order to lift ourselves up from the tragic reality of oppression and war.
My painting began with a question; Shall I choose to live in another world, a world that each one of us creates in his own way, or shall I die out of hunger, war and agony? I cannot be part of the problem, and I refuse to be a victim, but through my paintings I open a scene to a dancing party where I live in a sensational world, a world that we deserve. A world that grows like a snowball until it takes the biggest part of our life and emotions and eventually erases the idea of physical and emotional pain.
Emad was an established artist in Iraq known for his traditional paintings of Middle Eastern life, but his style changed when he came to the UK. Influenced by his new life in the city and his changing identity, his work is now more abstract and features bold colours.
In an interview with the Refugee Council, he refers to this new style;
‘I’m sometimes asked why I exhibit happiness when I come from a dark place. It’s because I’m looking to create happiness; I want to teach people how to smile. I won’t paint the blood or the killing; you can see that every day in the newspapers. I was a victim in Iraq, but I can’t accept myself as a victim forever. I can’t change the world, but I can help other people who are suffering to leave that aside for half an hour while they look at my paintings and feel like they’re dancing. People shouldn’t be victims forever; there is peace somewhere and we can find it.’
There have been many waves of emigration from Iraq since the end of the 1970’s. These emigrations have taken place for various reasons: the war with Iran from 1980 to 1988 and the Gulf War in 1991 following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the occupation of Iraq by the US the UK and their allies from 2003 – 2011 and subsequent sectarian violence.
A climate of constant insecurity has led to massive population displacement. IOM estimates that there are some 1.9 million Iraqis displaced internally, and over 2 million in neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan.
In 2009 Detention Action published their first report on the ineffectiveness and human cost of detention, sparking discussion about detention and forced removal.
Britain and Denmark were the only countries to opt out of the EU Returns Directive which put a maximum 18-month term on holding detainees. This report showed that of 188 long-term detainees studied over a period of 20 months 57% remained in detention, with one detainee even being held for 8 years. The report suggested that indefinite detainees were most likely to come from Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Algeria, because they were deemed too dangerous to return people to.
(‘Detained Lives: The Real Cost of Indefinite Immigration Detention’ by Detention Action, January 2009. PDF.)