Addressing the Future of Iraq
Citizens of a new and free Iraq have whole new identities to forge. And identity is memory. People whose identities are cobbled together from half-truths, or from distorted memories of who is to blame and who is blameless, are prone to commit new transgressions. The Iraq Memory Foundation has no “higher” purpose than to place the Iraqi experience of suffering and oppression, between 1968 and 2003, in the global context of the history of pain and suffering. The MF seeks to do this by filming and archiving the individual stories of many thousands of survivors and witnesses of atrocity. The MF also seeks to digitize, index and classify the totality of the documents recovered from the outgoing regime that deal with Iraqi pain and suffering.
These words of the victims and records of their victimizers will become available to the public through a museum, a public outreach project intended to work with teachers of elementary and secondary school students, and a research facility linked to the Iraqi university system. Such sensitive material will not be used for purposes of apportioning blame or playing politics, but in accordance with a protocol established by a fully sovereign and constitutional Iraqi government.
The Iraq Memory Foundation plans to house in a single newly designed and carefully chosen site in central Baghdad the following ongoing projects:
- A Documentation Project
- An Oral History Project
- A Museum of Remembrance
- A Public Outreach Program
- A Research Program
- A Liaison and Coordinating Center
- Placing the Iraqi Experience
A Documentation Project
Expanding and developing the Iraq Research and Documentation Project (IRDP). Today the main holding of the Iraq Memory Foundation (MF) consist of the North Iraq Dataset, a collection of 2.4 million pages of official Iraqi documents captured by Iraqi Kurdish groups during the 1991 uprising; the Kuwait Dataset, a collection of 750,000 pages of Iraqi documents captured in Kuwait after its liberation by Coalition forces in 1991; and the Ba’th Regional Command Collection, approximately 3.0 million pages gathered from Ba’th Party Regional Command Headquarters in Baghdad following the fall of Saddam in 2003.
An Oral History Project
An Iraqi Oral History on Film Project to film and archive the in-depth stories of many hundreds of survivors or first-hand witnesses to atrocity.
A Museum of Remembrance
The Iraq Memory Foundation plans a museum of remembrance containing cultural artifacts, both those produced to legitimate atrocity in Iraq, and those produced to protest it. The museum will cover what was done to all of Iraq’s communities, from the anti-Semitism of the late 1960s and the Anfal operations against Kurdish Iraqis, to the campaign against the Shi’i Iraqis which culminated in the mass killings of 1991. The MF will request that the Coalition Provisional Authority take possession of all major torture instruments captured by the Coalition, which will be relocated to the MF offices in the “Crossed Swords” complex.
A Public Outreach Program
A Public Outreach Project intended to train elementary and secondary school teachers, current and future, with methods and materials designed to help children face what happened in Iraq 1968-2003. This might be similar in function to the Facing History and Ourselves curricula.
A Research Program
A Research Project linked to the future Iraqi university system providing trained librarians and a fully indexed archive of first hand materials to facilitate future research on the 1968-2003 period.
A Liaison and Coordinating Center
Whose function is to link up with and support Iraqi human rights-related NGOs. The center would ensure that the works of the NGOs would have a space to exhibit its activities.
Placing the Iraqi Experience
In its global context. While unique in its details, the Iraqi experience of suffering and oppression is part of a larger history of pain and injustice at the shared human level. The Iraq Memory Foundation plans to engage international institutions of similar mandate in a program of cooperation. The Iraqi public will learn more of the experiences of other communities, and an international audience will better understand the Iraqi experience. This cooperation will take the form of exhibits, publications, and audio-visual programs.
The History of the Iraq Memory Foundation
For a society that has been politically brutalized on a massive scale, and for so long, comprehensive and accurate documentation of the past is essential. Citizens of a new and free Iraq have whole new identities to build. And what is identity if not memory? Identities that are quickly cobbled together on the basis of half-truths, or false and distorted memories of the blameworthy and blameless invite new transgressions. To keep an accurate record of Iraq’s traumatic past, the Iraq Memory Foundation has developed five core projects, and plans more.
In November 1991, shortly after the establishment of a safe-haven zone in northern Iraq, Kanan Makiya traveled to northern Iraq to see the archive of Ba’th documents seized by Iraqi rebels. Makiya was accompanied by a BBC filmmaker who filmed his investigation of the Iraqi government’s campaign of ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Kurds (the Anfal), an investigation made possible by the information in the documents.
The film, “The Road to Hell”, aired in January 1992 on BBC and then on PBS as a Frontline documentary under the title “Saddam’s Killing Fields.” On April 27, 1993, it received the Edward R. Murrow Award For Best Television Documentary On Foreign Affairs in 1992. The film stressed the importance of the documents as an information resource on the legacy of abuse in Iraq and argued the case for their collection and removal from the country for safekeeping. It shows the archive in its original state: mounds of files and records randomly stacked on the floors of buildings previously occupied by the Iraqi government, covered with dust and vulnerable to deterioration. The importance, volume and condition of these documents drew attention to the urgency of preserving and studying them as an invaluable historical record.
The Memory Foundation is an outgrowth of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), founded by Kanan Makiya at the Center of Middle East Studies at Harvard University in 1992. In 1993, the IRDP developed a plan to create an archive that would organize and preserve the documents already in its possession for more long-term scholarly purposes. Utilizing a 1993 grant from the Bradley Foundation, followed by a 1994 bridging grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, the IRDP began its work processing the small collection of documents in Makiya’s personal possession and transcribing interviews conducted with Iraqi refugees. The IRDP continued to receive and process small datasets over the next ten years.
After the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003, the management of the IRDP relocated to Baghdad, and expanded the organization’s mission to the documentation of all facets of the Iraqi experience of dictatorship. The new name of the Iraq Memory Foundation reflects that change. At this time, the MF was also incorporated as a Jam’iyah (a society) in Iraq.
Soon after relocating the organization to Baghdad in 2003, after long negotiations with the municipality of Baghdad and the Iraqi Governing Council, the MF was granted use of the “Crossed Swords” monument and parade ground in Sahat al-Ihtifalat in central Baghdad as the prospective site of its office, research and museum complex. That same summer, the organization acquired a major document collection, which the MF named the Ba’th Regional Command Collection, from the basement of the Ba’th party headquarters in central Baghdad.
On March 8, 2005, the MF gave an official presentation hosted by the Library of Congress titled: “The New Iraq—Memory and National Identity.” Speakers included Library of Congress Associate Librarian Deanna Marcum, Baghdad Mayor Ala’a al-Tamimi, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Carole Basri, Library of Congress Director for Preservation Diane Van der Reyden, Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies Director Falih Jabar, University of Utah History Professor Peter Sluglett, and Harvard University History Professor Roger Owen.
On September 21, 2005, MF Directors Kanan Makiya and Hassan Mneimneh testified in front of the Congressional human rights caucus. Their testimonies described the demand for and urgency of the work of the Memory Foundation. Professor Peter Sluglett also joined them to testify on the importance of the Foundation’s documents collection.
The Memory Foundation has offices in Baghdad, London and Washington DC.IRDP Website
Kanan Makiya was born in Baghdad. He left Iraq to study architecture at M.I.T. and later joined Makiya Associates to design and build projects in the Middle East. In 1981, he left the practice of architecture and began to write a book about Iraq. 'Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq' was published in 1989, and became a bestseller after Saddam Husain's invasion of Kuwait. Makiya also wrote 'The Monument,' an essay on the aesthetics of power and kitsch, and 'Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World,' which won the 1993 Lionel Gelber Prize for the best book on international relations published in English. Along with these books published in English and Arabic, and written under the pseudonym of Samir al-Khalil, Makiya has written for Al-Hayat, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and The London Times. In October 1992, he acted as the convenor of the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Opposition based in northern Iraq. He has collaborated on many films for television, the most important of which exposed the 1988 campaign of mass murder in northern Iraq. For his role in the film he received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Television Documentary on Foreign Affairs in 1992. His most recent publication is a reflection on Arab politics in the collection 'The Fight is for Democracy: Winning the War of Ideas in America and the World,' published in 2003 by Harper Collins.
Director of the IMF Documentation Project. Since 2003, he has designed and implemented all aspects of the proejct including the creation of a document scanning facility in Baghdad, assembly of document research teams and development of relationships with local and international organizations. From September 199 to July 2003, he served as Co-Director of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project, precursor to the IMF. At the IRDP he developed a software system for processing official Iraqi documents, and supervised the processing of approximately three million pages of documents. Mneimneh was educated at American University in Beirut, Georgetown University and Harvard University, and is published in numerous scholarly and popular periodicals including Al-Hayat and The New York Review of Books.
Mustafa Al-Kadhimiy, is a known and respected Iraqi activist in the fields of democracy and human rights. He has worked with Iraqi and international organizations to promote these values, and has acquired expertise in the area of human rights documentation and witness testimony. He has published several books in Arabic, including human concerns, which was published in London in 2000 and was officially recognised by the European Union as among the best work published by refugee writers. In addition, he is an accomplished journalist who has produced documentaries on Iraq for the BBC and Channel 4, and written numerous articles for leading Arabic journals and newspapers. His long experience in broadcasting includes directing a radio station in Greece from 1995 to 1997, working as the director of programming for Radio Free Europe’s Iraq service from 1999 to 2003. He also participated in launching the Iraqi Media Network as the Director of Planning and Programming immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. Since leaving Al-Iraqiya he has worked with the Iraq Memory Foundation, researching, directing and producing numerous filmed oral history testimonies with survivors of the Saddam Hussein regime.
The entire body of work of the Iraq Memory Foundation can be found on Stanford's Hoover Institute data portal.View Collection
- Iraq Foundation
- Iraq Research and Documentation Project
- Iraq: A Country Study (Library of Congress)
- The Languages of Iraq (Ethnologue Database)
- Al Iraqi On-Line Magazine
- Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
- Iraqi Art page (IraqiArt.com)
- Iraqi Artists
- Desaparecidos (Project Disappeared)
- Facing History and Ourselves
- Human Rights Watch (New York)
- George Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research
- International Center for Transitional Justice
- International Monitor Institute
- Legacy Projecy
- Physicians for Human Rights
- Polish Institute of National Remembrance
- South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Truth Commissions Project
- UC Berkley War Crimes Studies Center
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum