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“War is like a disease”

16 March 2017

In the documentary “Nowhere to Hide” by director Zaradasht Ahmed we follow Nori Sharif who is a nurse at the hospital in Jawala in the central province of Iraq. The documentary shows the escalation of a yearlong conflict and shows how war affects all aspects of people’s lives. But it is also a film about strength, humanity and the will to survive.

In the beginning of the film, Zaradasht Ahmed asks Nori Sharif to bring a small camera to the hospital and document what he sees in there. Sharif is skeptical. He says he doesn’t know what he would film. He eventually agrees to do it and throughout the film, he gets more and more engaged in the project. For Sharif, it becomes a quest to bring forward all the stories of the people he meets. He wants to document the reality of the Iraqi people. Document the meaninglessness of war. How it affects people on so many different levels. Sharif wants to make sure, that the stories will not be forgotten. He comments on what he sees and his point of view and analytical approach becomes the telling-voice of the movie.

“I stand here as a witness in front of this camera,” he says.

Independence and instability

The Iraqis interviewed in the documentary all categorises time in three periods: the time before the American invasion where Saddam Hussein ruled the country; the time of the American invasion, which people mainly refer to as ‘the war’; and the time after the invasion, which eventually is also referred to as ‘the war’.

In one of the first scenes of the film, the radio proclaims that the Americans are leaving the country and Iraq is finally free and independent. However, the optimism slowly changes, as the atmosphere becomes more and more tense in the country and corruption and violence is on the rise. Simultaneously, the structure of danger and insecurity changes form. As Sharif says: “When the Americans were here, they had tanks. And you could hide from them. Now the danger is everywhere.”

The undiagnosed war

At the hospital in Jawala, Sharif has witnessed how the type of wounds of people who arrive at the hospital has changed since the Americans entered the country in 2003. Gun wounds, injuries from shell splinters, roadside bombs and landmines become part of the work at the hospital, and Sharif explains how it has created a new reality for the health care personnel. On a daily basis, he meets people whose lives have been ruined by the war in one way or another. Sharif is a nurse in his heart and soul and when he tries to understand the war, he compares it to a disease:

“It is difficult to diagnose this war. It is an undiagnosed war. You can see all the symptoms; death, pain, sorrow. But you don’t understand the disease.”

“The will to build will win over the forces of destruction”

As time passes, Nori’s town is caught between various rebel groups and people begin leaving the area. One night almost the entire staff leave the hospital. Only Nori and a few others stay behind and try to work. However, eventually Nori and his family have to leave the area as well. They move from place to place until they end up in a refugee camp for internally displaced people.

“Before, I was documenting other victims of the war. Now I document myself,” Sharif says.

At the end of the documentary, the Iraqi government asks Sharif to go to the hospital in Jawala and see how things are. He enters a ruin. Everything is destroyed. Sharif is very affected by the visit and the destruction of the hospital becomes the symbol of the meaninglessness of the war, and a symbol on how people lose their basic rights during a conflict like this.

But Sharif’s desire to help and change the status of the country remains strong and his optimism and hope for the future is stunning and inspirational.

He says: “The will to build will win over the forces of destruction.”


Nowhere To Hide”, Director: Zaradasht Ahmed, Norway/Sweden, 2016, 86 minutes, Arabic

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WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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