EnquEAtes et analyses
The Revival of Cultural Life in Iraq
Par Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli
He is defenseless. He has nothing but a pen
in a forest of guns 
(Reference to the Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sa'igh)
They [Iraqis] have taught me the meaning of hope 
(Bassen Fayadth, Lebanese Film Producer)
The culture of a nation embodies institutions, values and norms of behavior that are rooted in its history and collective memory. For the Iraqis, that history is long and proud, extending back to the glory days of Babylon, one of the great civilizations of the ancient world - extending back even further, at least well into the third millennium B.C.
Iraqis often remind the world that their country is the "cradle of civilization." Within its present borders lay the ancient southern Mesopotamian city of Ur- birthplace of Abraham, and the even older Sumerian walled City of Uruk. On the land that was to become Iraq, the great Babylonian King Hammurabi constructed the obelisk which bears the earliest written legal code yet discovered; on this land archeologists have uncovered libraries of cuneiform tablets bearing, in Sumerian and Akkadian languages, the earliest written epic yet discovered -the epic of Gilgamesh. The culture of today's Iraqis - descendents of Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Persian and Armenians - is a fabric woven of many threads.
I. Cultural Periodicals
When one surveys the cultural landscape in the post-Saddam era one is struck by the diversity, quality, cultural scope, and analytical rigor of the many periodicals born since the regime's demise. In a recent dispatch, "Magazines Iraqis Read,"  MEMRI introduced its readers to some of the periodicals that have proliferated during the past three years. The present special report will look at the broader cultural and artistic landscape. This survey is by no means all-inclusive but it is intended to provide the reader with some understanding of aspects of Iraqi life that may not be readily accessible to the Western reader in general, and the American reader in particular. It will offer a flavor also of what had been missing under a despotic regime which characterized freedom of expression and artistic freedom as pernicious if not as high treason.
The Mesopotamia periodical published by the Center for Iraqi National Studies is devoted to reviving and promoting Iraqi identity and culture. The editor is the playwright and novelist Salim Matar.
The most recent issue (no date provided) comprises issues Nos. 8 and 9 and is devoted to religion in Iraq, starting from the ancient Iraqi religions and discussing Shi'ite Islam, Sunni Islam, Sufism and Christianity, and ending with the religions of Sabeans, Yazidis, and Jews. The last chapter of the issue discusses such topics as "Religious Tolerance in the Iraqi Mind," "Religious Tolerance is a Humanist Demand," and "The Dialogue between Creeds and Religions." There are 63 articles in this issue.
An earlier issue of Mesopotamia - issue No. 2 - is devoted to the women of Iraq. The issue's editorial states, "There can be no doubt that Mesopotamian civilization would not have attained its historical distinction and left its fingerprints without the celestial presence of woman illuminating the skies of our history and our land."