Blogs, videos and verse: an Iraqi poet's quest to heal her homeland

Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:18pm EDT
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By Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) - Iraqi-born poet Amal al-Jubouri may not have the Hollywood recognition of Angelina Jolie, but both women are artists who have decided to use their talents and profile to help the victims of war.

When al-Jubouri, one of foremost poets writing in Arabic, met Jolie this year, she urged the actress and U.N. humanitarian envoy to go with her and see the worsening hardships in her homeland. Jolie has already visited Iraq in previous years.

"I said: 'Iraq is burning, Angelina.' She told me she would love to go to Iraq," al-Jubouri said of her meeting with Jolie, a special envoy for the refugee agency UNHCR.

"I would love to join her on a trip to Iraq - not as an official visitor where they would not let her see the reality - but as a woman and mother whose voice would be crucial in this dramatic moment of historical displacement," al-Jubouri told Reuters at a cafe in London, the city that is now her home.

Al-Jubouri, 47, who fled Saddam Hussein and took political asylum in Germany in 1998, was one of the first exiled writers to return to Iraq after his fall.

Her anthology "Hagar before the Occupation, Hagar after the Occupation", about the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, has received awards for both its Arabic and English language versions.

Today, in addition to poetry, she uses blogging and video to help traumatized Iraqis cope with the horrors they still face, founding an online TV station to show what is happening inside the country, aiming to overcome sectarian divisions which threaten to break the country apart.

Soutuna (, Arabic for "our voice", posts videos from disparate groups that show their experiences of the conflict and document the life and culture of minorities, which otherwise go unreported.   Continued...

Poet Amal al-Jubouri poses for a photograph in her studio at her home in south west London October 3, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor