1325 PeaceWomen
JULIÁN NARANJO DONOSO
Design creator
lMAN AHMAD JAMAS
ROSA MENESES
Text writer
"It will take many years to rebuild Iraq. It will be very difficult"
IRAK, 1956

She is a journalist, a translator and a writer. In June of 2003, she created and directed the organization “Occupation Watch Iraq,” (OWI), a powerful initiative of international organization and Iraqis intended to provide information about the US occupation and its political, economic and social effects, and bringing to light the abuse and violation of civilians headed by the foreign troops. Given her important work of documentation and denunciation, OWI was set to be shut down in June of 2004 as a response to the reigning insecurity of her country. Taking refuge in Spain, she collected hundreds of testimonies of victims of torture and other crimes during the US occupation in her book “Chronicles of Iraq,” published in 2006. In April of 2007 in Cordoba, she received the Julio Anguito Parrado Journalism prize in recognition of her work.

Town by town, family by family, Iman Ahmad Jamas travelled through Iraq to collect testimonies of the victims of the crimes of the American troops during their first years of occupation of the Arab country. They were stories of violated women, broken families, refugees whose homes had been destroyed and elderly people who searched for their lost children. The Iraqi war of 2003 and the US occupation that followed gave this journalist’s professional life a huge overturn, and she decided to leave it all behind her the day that Baghdad fell in the hands of the United States. She decided to “follow the occupant forces and document their crimes.”

Iman believed in and lead the Occupation Watch Iraq, an organization created to register and document the actions and decisions of the United States in terms of politics, economics and social rights and to detect any abuses of power. It denounced the strategy of the Bush Administration to “dismantle the entire Iraqi social web.” Her conclusion is that the invasion of the US did not have as its only objective to destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein, but also to dismantle the entire state, “including its institutions and its culture.”

Soon, the cases of violations of human rights became the main theme of her investigations: indiscriminate bombs, cold blooded murders, nighttime raids, destruction of hospitals and infrastructure, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, violations, tortures, looting, destruction of cultural heritage, forced displacement of populations… Iman A. Jamas recorded the names of each victim of these violations of human rights in multiple cities and villages. Her and her co-workers put their lives at risk in order to give light to this suffering. But she remarks, “Surprisingly, we had no fear at all.”

Since then, Iraq has been in a downward spiral of endless violence. It has been a war of all against all: the Sunni insurgence, the cells of Al Qaeda, the death squads of the Shi’ites, and the US troops. Between 2003 and 2007, Iraq was an inferno. It was an inferno that was making the work of the Watch much more difficult. In June of 2004, one year after its creation, the center of documentation had to close given the continuous death threats that Iman and her comrades received.

But, despite the difficulties,  Jamas continued gathering testimonies, talking with victims, and recording crimes committed by the occupant forces. Many of the stories were recorded in the shocking book, “Chronicles of Iraq,” published in 2006. The book made especially visible the suffering endured by women in the middle of the conflict. They were stories of many women who were alone, who had lots their families, who were forced to flee their homes, who were wounded or violated or detained in jail by British and US forces. Jamas talks of disappeared people whose whereabouts are unknown and whose families are sunken in a labyrinth of desperation with no way out. And she speaks with anxiety about narrations such as this: “One mother was so desperate that when she heard when a friend of her son had heard that her son had been buried, she went to that place and was digging in the sepultures but never found him.”

“To work with this theme is very difficult and dangerous. On one side, we worked in areas that were bombing targets, near military bases, and threatened areas. But it was also dangerous because the Iraqis were so infuriated and disillusioned that they didn’t believe anyone could help them. I went to many places to talk to people about their situation with my notebook and my camera and many people harassed me. They didn’t see how making their stories public would help them, when their immediate needs were for medicine, food and shelter,” she recalled during an interview about her work with the Watch.

Her work of gathering stories of the abuses of human rights created tirelessly by this writer and translator with a Masters in Literature from the University of Baghdad, has been recognized in Spain. In April of 2007, Jamas received in the city of Cordoba the Julio Anguita Parrado International Journalism Award, in honor of the Spanish journalist who died just before the fall of Saddam Hussein during his coverage of the conflict. In her career since 1977, Jamas regrets the risks that face journalists in her country. According to her calculations, between the years 2003 and 2007 in Iraq, more than 200 Iraqi journalists have died. “They are the people who work in the most dangerous zones and collect information for the most well-known news agencies who are based safely in the “green zones” of Iraq,” she affirms.

Since August of 2006, she has lived in refuge in Spain with her two daughters with the hope of being able to one day return to an Iraq that is free and democratic. At the same time, she has a pessimistic view of the future: “It will take many years for Iraq to rebuild itself. Everything is destroyed: the State, the laws, the institutions, the public services, the infrastructure… After thirteen years of sanctions and US occupation, the entire country is wounded. The social structure has been dismantled. It will take many years to rebuild everything. It will be very difficult.”