EnquEAtes et  analyses 
6June 06
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 [1] 
(Reference to the  Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sa'igh)
They [Iraqis] have  taught me the meaning of hope [2] 
(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," [6] 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." [7]