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Bearing Witness in Times of Conflict: Rasha Fadhil’s Ishtar in Baghdad

Dr. Maysoon Taher Muhi,

Department of English, College of Education for Women, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq

In its metaphorical and abstract nature, theatre bears witness to the personal and collective experience and the most crucial events in the history of humanity. Theatre and the playwrights might be considered the “third eye” that registers, with its aesthetic and imaginative medium, the life during war and peace, the human psyche, its fragility and its evilness. From ancient Greece to the present day, a large body of drama depicts the theme of war and its consequences. This theme has consistently occupied a significant place on the stage, comparable to the DNA, that as it shapes the very nature of the theatrical art form. It fearlessly bears witness to the immense devastation wrought by war, exposing the absence of humanity, the insatiable greed of humankind, and the dehumanization of “the other.” In this article, Rasha Fadhil’s play Ishtar in Baghdad (2009) is studied as a work belonging to the “Theatre of Witness” genre. The play stands as a resounding cri de coeur against the relentless humiliation, unspeakable pain and inhumanity that Iraq and its people have endured throughout their tumultuous history, culminating in the invasion of Baghdad in 2003 by a United States-led international coalition. Within the framework of this play, Fadhil crafts a potent testimony, depicting the hauntingly truthful and excruciating scenes that unfolded in Iraq during the invasion, the subsequent explosions, and the harrowing realities of the detention system at Abu Ghraib. Ishtar in Baghdad stands as a testament to the power of theatre, its ability to shine a piercing light on the darkest corners of human existence, and its unwavering commitment to bearing witness to the profound suffering experienced by individuals and communities in times of war and its aftermath.

Keywords: Theatre of Witness, Iraq, Rasha Fadhil, Abu Ghraib, Testimony, Bearing Witness

The above abstract is a part of the article which was accepted at The Ninth International Conference on Languages, Linguistics, Translation and Literature (WWW.LLLD.IR), 1-2 February 2024, Ahwaz.