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Interview with Taher ALWAN byDeutsche Presse-Agentur

Monday, April 7, 2008 | Dr. TAHER ALWAN

A new Tower of Babel? Iraqis flee sectarian violence
Interviewed by : DPA
Brussels - Professor Taher Alwan , used to teach at Baghdad University's institute of fine arts.
In 1996, he left Iraq in protest at Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, but gladly returned after the US-led invasion of 2003 with high hopes for his country.
He founded a film festival to support Iraq's new generation of film-makers and a non-governmental organization (NGO) that produces documentaries about human rights.
But success brought public recognition, and unwanted attention from the country's militias. Forced to change his home three times by a series of death threats, he finally decided to leave his family and worldly possessions behind and flee to Belgium, where he has been living .
'Still today, I do not understand why they'd want to threaten a film-maker. Perhaps it was because I invited girls and boys to attend meetings together, or maybe it is because I criticized the abuse of women's rights ' Alwan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur in an interview in Brussels.
'But what I do know is that while I am no politician, the threats were certainly politically motivated,' he added.
Alwan is one of more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled their country amid the sectarian violence that has erupted since the US-led invasion. Most of them now live in neighbouring Syria and Jordan, while only a fraction of them have made it to Europe.
NGO workers active in Iraq complain that the tackling the problem of sectarian violence in the wrong way. Instead of fostering mutual understanding, they are driving an ever deeper wedge between Shia and Sunni, Christians and Kurds.
And this strategy, they warn, risks encouraging more people like Alwan to seek asylum abroad.
Mar 19, 2008, 18:34 GMT

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