Iraq and Lebanon – Revolt Against Sectarianism?

Iraq and Lebanon: When the Arab world rose up against failed governance in 2011, Lebanon and Iraq stood out as exceptions to the regional trend. Yet by the end of the decade, massed popular demonstrations would demand the fall of the regime in both countries. With their electoral systems, the Iraqis and Lebanese did not confront deeply entrenched dictators. Rather, protestors rose against sectarian politics and called for a new order based on citizenship without reference to religion.

Speaker biographies:

Maha Yahya is director of the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, where her work focuses broadly on political violence and identity politics, pluralism, development and social justice after the Arab uprisings, the challenges of citizenship, and the political and socio-economic implications of the migration/refugee crisis.

Prior to joining Carnegie, Yahya led work on Participatory Development and Social Justice at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA). She was previously regional adviser on social and urban policies at UN-ESCWA and spearheaded strategic and inter-sectoral initiatives and policies in the Office of the Executive Secretary which addressed the challenges of democratic transitions in the Arab world. Yahya has also worked with the United Nations Development Program in Lebanon, where she was the director and principal author of The National Human Development Report 2008–2009: Toward a Citizen’s State. She was also the founder and editor of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies.

Yahya has worked with international organizations and in the private sector as a consultant on projects related to socioeconomic policy analysis, development policies, cultural heritage, poverty reduction, housing and community development, and postconflict reconstruction in various countries including Lebanon, Pakistan, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. She has served on a number of advisory boards including the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

Yahya is the author of numerous publications, including most recently Unheard Voices: What Syrian Refugees Need to Return Home (April 2018); The Summer of Our Discontent: Sects and Citizens in Lebanon and Iraq (June 2017); Great Expectations in Tunisia (March 2016); Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder (November 2015); Towards Integrated Social Development Policies: A Conceptual Analysis (UN-ESCWA, 2004), co-editor of Secular Publicities: Visual practices and the Transformation of National Publics in the Middle East and South Asia (University of Michigan Press, 2010) and co-author of Promises of Spring: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in Democratic Transitions (UN-ESCWA, 2013).

MAYSOON PACHACHI is a London-based filmmaker of Iraqi origin, who was educated in Iraq, the USA and the UK. She studied Philosophy at University College London (BA Hons) and Filmmaking at the London Film School (MA) and worked for many years as a documentary film, TV drama and feature film editor in the UK. Since 1994 she has worked as an independent documentary film director and has just completed a fiction feature film, ‘Our River…Our Sky’ (Arabic title: Kulshi Makoo), which was shot in Iraq in 2019. The project was awarded the IWC Gulf Filmmaker Award for the script, at the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2012. Maysoon has also taught film directing and editing in Britain and Palestine (Jerusalem, Gaza and Ramallah). In 2004, with Londonbased Iraqi director and cameraman, Kasim Abid, she co-founded INDEPENDENT FILM & TELEVISION COLLEGE, a free-of-charge film-training centre in Baghdad, which ran for 10 years and whose students produced 18 short documentary films, which were shown internationally and received 14 festival prizes. Documentary Films VOICES FROM GAZA (52 mins) Channel 4 (UK) 1990 (producer/editor) Red Ribbon Award, American Film and Video Festival, San Francisco IRAQI WOMENVOICES FROM EXILE (52 mins) Channel 4 (UK) 1994 (director/producer) A broad range of Iraqi women, of different ages, religions and political backgrounds, living in London recount their experiences – creating a sense of the modern history of Iraq as experienced by the country’s women. SMOKE 1997 (director/producer/editor) Part of an art installation by prize-winning artist, UK/Brazilian artist Lucia Nogueira. The film is now in the permanent collection of the Tate Modern Gallery, London IRANIAN JOURNEY (83 mins) ZDF/Arte 2000 (director) (First Prize, Kalamata International Documentary Festival, 2000) A documentary road-movie about a 24-hour bus trip with the only woman longdistance bus driver in the Islamic world. LIVING WITH THE PAST: People and Monuments in Medieval Cairo, (52 mins) ECHO Productions (USA) 2001 (director) A portrait of Cairo’s Darb Al Ahmar, a neighborhood in the heart of the old city facing a process of radical change. BITTER WATER, (76 mins) (Legend Productions/Oxymoron Films) 2003 (co-director/producer) Feature-length documentary about 4 generations of refugees in a Palestinian camp in Beirut. RETURN TO THE LAND OF WONDERS (88 mins) 2004 ZDF/Arte (director/producer/camera/editor) Made in 2004 on the first trip back to Baghdad in more than 35 years. OUR FEELINGS TOOK THE PICTURES OPEN SHUTTERS IRAQ (102 mins) (2008) (director/producer/camera/editor) (Jury Special Mention, Arab Film Festival Rotterdam, 2009) 12 women and a 6 year-old girl, travel to Damascus from 5 cities in Iraq. They live together for a month, during which they tell their life stories and learn to take photographs. The remarkable photo-stories they produced about their lives at a difficult and dangerous time in Iraq, were exhibited internationally and were also the subject of a book.