BAGHDAD -- The room was boiling hot because of all the people.
A canvas of variety, it was filled with people from many walks of life; sheiks, Iraqi Security Force soldiers, local Iraqi businessmen and businesswomen, U.S. Soldiers, American civilians, Iraqi children. Such different ways of life, yet everyone was smiling and talking amongst each other like friends. What brought them all together would have been unheard of a few years ago but because of the progress and stability in the area was able to go off without hitch.
An art show.

May 15-16 in Doura saw the home of local civic leader and cardiologist Muayad Muslih Hamad al-Jabori transformed into a gallery, highlighting the talent of artists from across Iraq. The walls were lined with paintings; some loud, vibrant portraits of people dancing, others more somber, seeming to reflect the past years of hardship and war.

But the show was more a symbol of the progress Iraq is making than a reflection of the past.
"This art show is not so much about solving other problems but building relationships between our friends and our brothers," said Maisoon Kalaf, who was in charge of the Sons of Iraq soldiers securing the area for the show. "We all hope things will get better, and relationships like Dr. Muayad's with the American Soldiers help with that."

Muayad has been working with U.S. forces since the initial surge into Iraq in 2003.
As coalition forces cleared houses through his neighborhood in Eastern Rasheed and secured the area, he was described by Lt. Col. Kirk Dorr, the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment commander, as one of the few civic leaders who stood up and said, "Americans, you want to get in these neighborhoods and stabilize this area' I will help you." He lent a hand to the American forces when they had no local contacts, didn't speak any of the language and were growing desperate, helping them to gain some traction and push forward into the Baghdad area.

Now, Muayad is doing his part to work with coalition forces to rebuild the same area he watched get taken over by insurgents years ago.

"We start by building the relationship between the locals and the Americans," said Muayad. "The next step is building the relationship between the locals and the government, the national police, and the army. It's a long-term story. The Americans show to the people that as they leave, there is still hope."

Events like the art show help.
"It means a lot to me to be able to have an art show in my home town, and be able to share my work with my people," said Sabah Hamad, an artist whose work was featured in the show. "To share my art with them first, and then to... show people farther away is so great."
Hamad has been painting professionally for four years. His artwork, he says, has been influenced by the war, but not stopped by it.

"The war has made it harder to paint, but it has not forbidden me to complete my message," he said. "I was at school in the academy of art and there was an explosion that blew out the window right next to me. But that same night, I went back to my room and started drawing again."

The people of Doura have acted the same way as Hamad for years now, continuing with life even as war raged around them. But now the progress is tangible, and the local populace has something to look forward to.

"This certainly shows the great progress that has been made in Doura, and the progress that has been made here in Iraq," said Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum, deputy commanding general-Center of United States Division - Center. "This used to be a very rough neighborhood and the fact that we can do this here, it is definitely an indication that things are becoming more stable here in Doura. I think this opens the door for the people of Doura and East Rasheed to see that it is stable, and to continue to build on that foundation."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16