Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Attack on Sulaimaniyah donkey statue sparks outrage

ERBIL - An attack on the statue of a donkey in Sulaimaniyah, the second largest city in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, has set off outcry among artists and journalists who deemed it as an assault on freedom and the "terrorization of thought".

pay kar The statue was unveiled earlier this month in central Sulaimaniyah city’s Nali Park - that has been named after  famous Kurdish poet who wrote a famous poem about donkeys - by a political party in the region called the Donkeys’ Party.

The statue shows the head and shoulders of a donkey dressed in a suit, shirt and tie. It is a 1.8 by 1.1 meter bronze statue that took Zirak Mira, a Kurdish sculptor, seven months to create.

Donkeys’ Party leader Omar Klol had hoped during the unveiling ceremony on April 13 that the statue would help people better understand the four-legged animal and treat it with respect.

Klol believes that donkeys offered help to the Kurdish armed struggle against the former Iraqi governments in the second half of the twentieth century when Kurds were fighting for greater political rights.

He has on several occasions said that the donkey played a very important role in the Kurdish liberation movement and described the animal as the Kurdish fighter's “only friend” during the struggle for Kurdish rights. Donkeys were used to move fighters' weaponry and food supplies from the villages to their hideouts on the jagged mountains.

“I can't describe the way I feel today which is similar to the feeling I had on my wedding day,” Klol said during the ceremony.

“Kurdish government, parliament and other governmental institutions failed to help our party establish the statue, but Mira was the only person who raised the donkey’s head high in central Sulaymaniyah.”

But the statue lasted unharmed for only 10 days and was attacked by unknown people last night. There is damage to one of the donkey's eyes as well as its tie. The attack followed a verbal attack on the city of Sulaimaniyah on Facebook, stating that erecting such a statue was a foolish thing to do. Unknown groups also threatened to remove the statue.

But for creator of the statue Mira, the physical and verbal attacks on the statue and Sulaimaniyah city is a “terrorization of thought”.

"They [the attackers] have not stopped by this and have launched a verbal attack against Sulaimaniyah where the statue was placed, which shows that the Kurdish community has not developed in this respect yet.”

The Kurdistan Artists Syndicate (KAS) issued a statement following the attack.

“We condemn any attack or assault on the artistic works on any political, religious or social pretext." The syndicate also called on the court and the relevant parties to take legal steps against the perpetrators.

Also, a number of intellectuals, artists and journalists launched a campaign to support the donkey statue and criticize the attack. The campaign group described the attack on the statue as an attack on freedom and creativity in a statement circulated by the Kurdish media.

“After threats and insulting the artistic work of Mira, here the hands of the dark put their threat to action and distorted the statue,” the statement said.

“We condemn this attack and consider it as an attack on artistic freedom and creativity.”