By Randa Darwish
“This is Iraq” is a hip-hop song performed by the Swiss-born Iraqi rapper, I-NZ adapting the U.S. Childish Gambino's hit “This is America”. The song depicts 15 years following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, highlighting the widespread violence that followed the 2003 war and continues till today.
The video starts with a scene of a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit sitting in front of an elderly playing the oud (lute) musical instrument before two armed soldiers forcing the prisoner to kill the musician but in effect depicting the maltreatment of Iraqi detainees by American soldiers.
Scenes from the Abu Ghraib Prison and the horrifying physical and psychological abuse meted out against Iraqi prisoners are also depicted in the video with a background scene of kneeling Iraqi men in orange jumpsuits appearing during summary executions.
The song has a disclaimer: “This video is a representation of Iraq’s reality over the past 15 years and does not support, promote, nor condone violence in any shape or form,”. It is mainly performed in English with few lines in Arabic of: “This is Iraq. Your start is the end of you. Your passport will finish you. Still be careful though, don’t mess up.”
Former U.S. President George W. Bush also takes part in the song; Here, a man wearing a mask appears declaring “mission accomplished” in reference to the Bush speech announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
With the lines: "They're immune, this is telly, that's the news, media blackout, then it's lights out, keep sniffin' the tar”, the singer also highlights the impunity of foreign forces and corrupt locals in Iraq.
Released on July 4, the song coincides with US Independence Day. The rapper, who has never been to Iraq in his life, told VICE Arabic it was not planned. However, when the song was almost done they decided to speed up its release date to draw more attention to the topic discussed in the song.
The song ends with a final scene of an old Iraqi man standing beside a large pool of blood, reading from the late well-known poet Badr Shakir Al Sayyab, and focusing versus of “The River and The Death excerpts.
The song has already been watched more than a million times in less than 20 days after its release on YouTube. It is receiving a strong and positive response on the rapper’s channel and on the social media with many calling to create more parodies of “This Is America” on many other countries.
While I-NZ was the first to remake “This Is America” into a Middle Eastern version, Nigerian rapper Falz come before him with his “This Is Nigeria” version. The version addresses social issues in Nigeria, including SARS brutality, codeine abuse, and unrestrained killings in some parts of the country.
One of the main reasons why “This Is Iraq” went viral, besides discussing the ugly reality of the country over the past 15 years, it came at a sensitive time in which Iraqis are still suffering from the consequences of the 2003 U.S. invasion, the terrorism that followed, the ISIS spread to the widespread corruption among the Iraqi elite, in addition to the poor services in many cities and the soaring unemployment rates.
All those factors are leading Iraqis to mount nationwide protests to pressure the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who is seeking a second term to make things right. The protests have left several people dead and injured with the government cutting internet connection to suppress the protests in major Iraqi towns and cities.
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