Iraq: Street Art as a patriotic tool.

Driving on the former coalition route Jackson, and vigorously protected by a team of armed forces I am travelling through the land of Mesopotamia. Modern-day Iraq, prominently mentioned in the religious scriptures of different religions is nowadays a country of contrasts.


The route is passing the geograhical sites of Ur, Uruk and Al Hilla, the location of the partial rebuilt city of Babylon and proceeding in the direction of Baghdad. The voyage in this tentative genesis of civilization feels regularly as a fabulous experience.

The ruins of Ur, established approximately in 4000 V.C. and it’s remains of the ziggurat (temple) of Ur-Nammu (2200 V.C.) are impressive and a precursor for lots to come further on the route.

Uruk; with ruins of different epoch’s, regarded as the first city in the world and where scripture arised. Nowadays a very valuable and famous archeological site.

And Babylon…

Babylon, city of Nebukadnezar II (634–562 V.C.), Alexander the Great (356-323 V.C.) and Saddam Hoessein (1937-2006 †).

Recent excavations of the old city, in order to rebuild/restore the city as an expression of importance due to history are unfinished. Hoessein ordered to rebuild the city with it’s original bricks. Finally it should be surrounded by different new built palaces, so the non-democratic chosen president of Iraq could view the Euphrates river and the blue city of Babylon from his bedrooms. Now there are two empty hills, one raided (ugly) palace and a partial town with one blue building, a scale (1: 1½) model of the original Ishtar gate.


As a contradiction to all kind of Iraqi cultural (world) heritage there are countless remnants of recent wars. Sji’ite and Kurdish uprisings, two Gulf wars, the period of the Coalition Provisional Authority. The civil war between Sji’ite and Soennite Muslim population. Finally rescinding the Iraqi socialistic Ba’ath union as a political remnant from the Hoessein-era.

All this unintentionally encouraging an evolution to what is now one of the most-present threats in the world, the existence of ISIS/Daesh, commonly known as IS.

As a part of nationalism/patriotism, public paintings and text are sprayed and painted on public buildings and walls. Sometimes to express the vision of a leader, as a message or just as a simple propaganda-display.


Affined the evolution from former Ba’ath to IS there is also an evolution in the appearance of Street Art. From the ‘old school’ Arabic based paintings, there is a change to more ‘Western’ related paintings.

In the area I have travelled there are several expressions of the ‘old school’ Street art, used as propaganda. Despite the unpurified use of an art expression it is still Street Art and Graffiti, used/abbused for patriotic use or indoctrination.


Looking at the paintings/written expressions on remains of buildings and statues the parallel between a regime and it’s leaders and the Street art is easily detected. The damaging of the paintings is showing antipathy against the person, as soon as his power is broken.

Text & Photography: © Henk Warrink / NCO Photography

All rights reserved.


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