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Ali is an economist and political analyst, working at a private UK-based company. He worked previously at the World Health Organisation and has an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS. You can follow him on Twitter (@alialsaffar).

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the brain softer.

I have had a writer’s block that stretches back months, and have not blogged despite the largest upheaval in decades in the Middle East, riots in the UK, and the momentous return of King Kenny to his helm. But I am back now.

Unfortunately, since I last wrote, London has lost what I like to think was becoming an increasingly important institution trying to promote Iraqi culture, art and heritage and to bridge the gap between first and second-generation British Iraqis. Well, I say lost, but that’s not entirely true. The English-language programme at the Humanitarian Dialogue Foundation has unfortunately been wound up due to lack of funds, but the HDF is continuing with the Arabic programme. In the year since the Foundation was set up it hosted speakers including Baroness Emma Nicholson, Charles Tripp, Colin Rowatt, Nadje al-Ali, Kanan Makiya and Sami Zubaida, covering topics ranging from food to tribalism. Despite what I hope have been our most valiant efforts (a fellow blogger and I were involved in the foundation), attendance to the programme wasn’t always great, and we felt we were battling a deep-rooted apathy among many young Iraqis when it came to such programmes. The audience we tried to target were mostly busy with work, young families and life, which is understandable. We hoped that we could convince the community that the Foundation was theirs, and that they had a stake in controlling how it was run and what events it should hold. In this, we had some success, with the screening of Son of Babylon organised in conjunction with the Iraqi Youth Group, and the (continued) hosting of the Iraqi Youth Foundation’s book group being two particular successes.

The venue is still open for those that want to organise events, and I think (and hope) that people will make use of it to organise one-off events to showcase the finer aspects of Iraqi culture.

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One Comment on “Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the brain softer.”

  1. Touta September 22, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Iraqi’s never respected iraqi culture to begin with (unfortunately), I can already see a slow descent of losing values and traditions, unless there’s glitter and guns, there’s not going to be a large gathering outside events.

    Its happening in Iraq itself, so why would you think it would be any different in Britain? Go to the Baghdad museum its empty. Go to any Abu Nawas club – its full to the brim. Same goes for London – go to the Eid parties or Religious events and everyone is dressed in their gaudiest clothes, go to the cultural exhibitions you’ll see a few wandering souls.

    It really is a shame, ‘British Iraqis’ have lost their prestige.
    But its inevitable, it seems we’re a nation of self flagellation, wherever we live.

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