Iraqi Graffiti

It’s been said that you can learn a lot about a culture from the graffiti it leaves on the walls – from the political slogans and dirty rhymes of ancient Rome to Baghdad today. This Newsday article takes a look at some of the graffiti covering Baghdad:

In a place where reliable surveys of the public mood are difficult to gauge, the writings on the walls are one way to peer into Iraqis’ minds. Hussein is naturally a lightning rod for all sides, but the other issues that preoccupy the nighttime scribblers are their daily struggles for survival, their Arab neighbors and the new men in charge of their lives.

“Some are ironic, some are funny, some are artistic,” said Muhir Edan, a bookseller in the Old Baghdad section of the city whose friends teasingly say he is a Colin Powell look-alike. “Even now, some are afraid to say something in the newspapers. I am still afraid,” he said. “But at night, in the cover of darkness, you can write what you want.”

What are the Iraqis saying in a way they couldn’t before?

Hussein loyalists shout their yearning for the deposed dictator – “Saddam will come again” – followed by the coda on the same line from a detractor: “Through my behind!”

I’d imagine that whoever translated that did so very loosely. Another gem from the article:

There are the occasional anti-American slogans, some in misspelled English – like “Dawn USA” – but mostly President George W. Bush is hailed as a liberator, especially in the neighborhoods of the Shia majority historically brutalized by Hussein.

Samplings of the Arabic slogans include: “Down Saddam the infidel and long live Bush the believer!” “A thousand Americans but not one Tikriti,” referring to residents of Hussein’s hometown.

Many taunt the deposed dictator: “Saddam the dirty, the son of the dirty, in which septic tank are you hiding now?”

Hussein’s family also comes in for abuse: “Where are your wife and daughters, Saddam? Are you pimping them in Jordan?”

“I like what I read,” said Karal Nadji, a Shia street vendor who sells shoes. “We appreciate Mr. Bush. We’re all waiting for the fruits of change.”

Somehow I have a feeling the Bush would get a warmer reception in Iraq then he would in most places in Europe…

5 thoughts on “Iraqi Graffiti

  1. Too bad your theory can’t be put to the test and see if Bush is actually safer walking the streets of Baghdad than London. Somehow, I doubt Bush or his advisors would be too keen on being the guinea pigs of your experiment, however. Bush hasn’t had the nerve to go to the frontlines of the wars he’s endorsed in the past. Why should this one be any different?

  2. My favorite one from that Newsday article is the one near the bottom, the “popular slogan” that’s been sprouting up: “Neither Bush we want, nor Chalabi; we want beer and lablabee.”

    I love that one, but probably not for the reason you’d think.

  3. Mmmm…. lalabi… I really should find a good recipe for that. It’s been ages since I’ve had it.

    (For the uniniated, lalabi is an Iraqi chickpea dish that’s quite good, especially with lamb.)

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