On August 27th, 2019, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Iraq.
Iraq and Japan (Madoka)
H.E. Mr. Almosawi started the interview by introducing the relations between Iraq and Japan. Iraq and Japan have had their 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations. There were plenty of activities in Baghdad as well as Tokyo that celebrated this anniversary based on cultural events. The two countries share an economic partnership since 1979, and Toyota’s 2nd largest market had once been in Iraq. H.E. Mr. Almosawi mentioned that there is a deep level of trust between the trade of Iraq and Japan, in terms of quality and safety. In fact, after the Iraq-Iran war of 1980 to 1988, none of the Japanese companies left Iraq until all of their commitments were finished. H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that this has been remembered by the Iraqi people, as the Japanese companies’ attitude represented the trust and responsibility of the Japanese people and culture.
Up to 2003, Japan has been the forefront of helping Iraq, especially in infrastructure, since the nation suffered a war-struck society. Japan has assisted Iraq in terms of loans as well as humanitarian aid. H.E. Mr. Almosawi is grateful for the Japanese engineers and doctors who stationed in Iraq to rebuild the nation’s related sectors. Furthermore, there have been various strategic projects by Japan in the fields of oil, water, and other sectors of infrastructure by organizations such as JICA and JITRO, as well as the foreign office.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi is glad to say that Iraq is gradually and securely developing its economy and security to the levels it was before the wars. He explained that Japan is also in the forefront of the support against terrorism, as Iraq has received support from the international community, with over 60 countries in alliance.
Nevertheless, the aspect that H.E. Mr. Almosawi believes makes the relations between Iraq and Japan so strong is its lifeline that has weaved into the cultures. He explained that the cultural exchanges between people is what makes relations stay forever, and that it is more important than the flow of money or businesses. In particular, H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that “Iraq’s history is the forefront of interest in Japan”. Japan has always been very fascinated by the Iraqi heritage and historical civilizations.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi mentioned that some of the shared principles between Iraq and Japan include the value of working hard to create peace and stability, and the most important assets of the country being its people. H.E. Mr. Almosawi expressed his amazement for Japan’s magnificent reconstruction after experiencing war. H.E. Mr. Almosawi notes that Iraqi resources are very rich but there is a need to focus on building the country to “[their] values”. H.E. Mr. Almosawi hopes that Iraq can rebuild its society in line to the core of their cultural values.
In the near past, Iraq used to be the center of the world in education. H.E. Mr. Almosawi noted that it was the wars that had led to the biggest losses to the Iraqi educational and cultural system and infrastructure. H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that the educational system has been hard to rebuild, yet although at a slow pace, there has been reconstruction during the last 15 years that has brought hope to Iraq like the “light out of the tunnel”.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi mentioned that Japan has been very keen in education in Iraq. The first Japanese language department was opened in Baghdad University recently, and H.E. Mr. Almosawi is glad to say that there are strong relations between the universities of Iraq and Japan through continuous exchanges. Education in Iraq is not yet at the level it once was, but students are studying hard in various fields including sciences. H.E. Mr. Almosawi hopes that bureaucratic issues can be solved to increase the number of exchange students between the two nations during the years to come.
Iraq is a nation with one of the oldest histories in the world. Debatably, the nation’s history can be traced back to 8 ~ 10 thousand years ago. H.E. Mr. Almosawi noted that the traditions of Iraq can be seen through its old language, which is not only a means for communication but also a code of conduct for society. H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that the language represents Iraq’s traditions from about 8 thousand years ago.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi described the Iraqi cultural values to be humble, generous, respectful, and hospitable. With 13 races, 9 religions, and multiple languages living in peaceful coexistence for more than 6 thousand years, Iraqi people have been very united in diversity. H.E. Mr. Almosawi noted that this is the beauty of the Iraqi society, that such a diverse group of people have been living in peace for a long time without problems between races or cultures.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that the violence of terrorist groups have occurred in Iraq resulted in the destruction of important historical and religious buildings, which is not only a crime to Iraq but also to humanity. The rich cultural heritage of Iraq is reflected by the buildings that were burnt down, including an 1800 year old church and a mosque from over a century ago. He explained that such terrorist destruction had been very moving and shocking to the country in terms of its cultural heritage and history of long peaceful coexistence.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi introduced that almost any type of tourism could be enjoyed in Iraq. Firstly, visitors can enjoy religious and historical tourism. H.E. Mr. Almosawi commented that there are almost 15 thousand places that can be visited as historical spots in the country! He explained that with so many heritage sites and oil and water that exist on the surface of the ground in Iraq, it is almost impossible to dig a deep hole in the land.
Firstly, H.E. Mr. Almosawi recommended four places he wishes visitors would see in Iraq. He first recommended Babylon, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for second time in 2019. For two millennia (10 empires), Babylon has been the center of Mesopotamia, and is one of the earliest cradles of civilization as the center of ancient art, science, and literature. Next, H.E. Mr. Almosawi mentioned the Iraqi Marshlands in the South, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in terms of both nature and archeology. The Ahwar of Southern Iraq, known as the “Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities” is made up of seven components that cover almost 27% of Iraq’s size: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas. H.E. Mr. Almosawi noted that this site is famous for its beautiful nature resulting from the two rivers that feed it. Then, H.E. Mr. Almosawi expressed his hopes for visitors to see the Ziggurat of Ur, which means the "temple whose foundation creates aura”. H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that place is said to be the birthplace of Prophet Abraham, and is a popular pilgrim place since it was visited by the Vatican. The Ziggurat of Ur are the remains of a structure that was built during the Early Bronze Age. Finally, H.E. Mr. Almosawi recommended Baghdad, the current capital city of Iraq with a history of over 1000 years. H.E. Mr. Almosawi wishes visitors can see various historical heritage sites including the palaces, which were built before the Ottoman Empire.
Then H.E. Mr. Almosawi introduced his recommended destinations in Iraq for leisure and health tourism, which he noted was a developed industry during the 70s. Now, there is a need to clear the debris of war. H.E. Mr. Almosawi explained that the North of Iraq is very mountainous, allowing people to enjoy seasonal and snow sports, as well as onsens.
Hopes for Iraq-Japan relations (Nanami)
H.E. Mr. Almosawi hopes for a strong, prosperous future of Iraq and Japan. He wants to promote stability and stressed that there needs to be a win-win situation that satisfies the interests of both countries. He explained how Iraq is rich with natural resources and Japan has the proper technology to bring them to its highest potential. It was clear that he has high hopes, and he gave us an example of how JICA had taken part in 28 projects in Iraq as of today. JICA succeeded in finishing all of these projects, and H.E. Mr. Almosawi was moved by the Japanese people’s commitment to finish every single task despite the war that tore through Iraq. H.E. Almosawi praised the Japanese companies for their efforts and devotion in rebuilding their war torn communities. More recently, three new projects have been added that focuses on the areas that were liberalized by terrorist forces. Several Japanese companies are reacting to these changes in Iraq and the two nations are working together to promote peace in the region. By contributing to the development of these areas, Japan will be able to positively influence the local economy and employment. H.E. Mr. Almosawi believes that the future of both countries are bright and there are lots of potential by further strengthening diplomatic relations.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi stated that there are many definitions of the word ‘globalization’, and how they could be interpreted differently, in economic, cultural, social, etc. terms. He also believes that there are both positive and negative sides to globalization, with the positive side being diluting borders and breaking down cultural barriers. The negative side consists of widening income gaps, disputes over territory and imbalances in trade. The positive effects of globalization must outweigh the unwanted consequences, and as a nation that experienced the terrors of war, H.E. Mr. Almosawi aims to encourage the positive side of globalization. He wants to build diplomatic relationships that last forever, not just based on trade or economics.
As a child, H.E. Mr. Almosawi wanted to become a professional sportsman in shot put. He was very devoted to this sport, and even became one of the top athletes up until his high school career. However, the war prevented him from pursuing the sport, and he was unable to continue following his dreams. Due to the worsening situation of his country he was not even able to go back to his country. It was then that he decided to become a human rights activist, which ultimately resulted in him working as a diplomat. His passions about working as an ambassador revolves around teamwork, and how he gets to work with diplomats all over the world. He mentioned that it is almost every ambassador’s dream to be employed in Japan, and he seemed very optimistic about being able to serve his country in Japan.
H.E. Mr. Almosawi had a very strong message towards the Japanese students, which is to take a moment to relax and enjoy life. He expressed that children are truly happy when they are playing and running around outside, not being tied up with excessive studying and homework. The Japanese people’s determination to work very hard is admirable, but the amount of work prevents them from doing things that make them happy. He said he wants to see more people genuinely enjoy their life, and his main message towards students as well as the rest of the population is to go to school, be good, but most of all enjoy things that make them happy.
On Febuary 24th, 2014, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Iraq. Mr. Alaa Al-Hashimy, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in Japan and the first Secretary, Ms. Zena H. Al Khaleel, welcomed us warmly.
Embassy of Iraq Interview Q & A
Q1.) What are the unique aspects of education in your country?
A: In Iraq, students are offered free education and private colleges exist. In elementary, by the fourth grade, speaking is taught at school. From the fourth grade, students learn to write as well as to speak. There are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet; therefore writing is much simpler compared to Japanese (as there is Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji). English is taught from the first grade of elementary and in high school (from grade nine to ten), students are given some personal decisions. The choices depend on whether one would want to be active in the scientific field or the academic field (consisting of occupations such as researchers and doctors).
Q2.) There are numerous mountains and lakes that many people like to visit. What does your country do in order to preserve the beauty in nature?
A: Water is from the Tigris and Euphrates River. The two rivers meet at the south of Iraq, which is where water is delivered to. Because there is a lot of flat land, it has been relatively easy to build dams and irrigation systems. In addition, the nation makes an effort to renew different locations where repairing is needed.
Q3.) Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages of Iraq but what languages are taught at school?
A: Most Iraqis are able to speak in English, especially since 2003. Before 2003, English was taught at school from the fourth grade of elementary. In addition, Arabic are taught everywhere, whereas Kurdish is only spoken in the Northern region of Iraq.
Q4.) What are some animals that could be seen within the nation?
A: On a daily basis, pets are common to the Iraqis. However, fishes, birds, and dogs are more common than cats. Cats are thought to be unique to be kept as pets.
Q5.) Archaeological sites have been a tourist attraction. What are some sites you especially recommend?
A: There is a type of tower called “Babel” that a similar style of tower could be seen in Okinawa, Japan. The Babylon Lion is a huge tourist attraction as well. Vistors could also enjoy the various waterfalls and mountains.
Q6.) The Kurdistan region of Iraq has been experiencing an economic boom in recent years. Do you feel the effect?
A: The people of Iraq definitely are feeling the effect. This is especially of the numerous disasters that happened to the area in the past. This is also one reason Kurdish is still spoken in the North, which its purpose is to preserve the language. Iraqi people have a special bond between each other and love each other very much so they do feel the effect together.
Q7.) I read that football is very popular in your country. What are some of the sports played in Iraq?
A: Among Iraq’s most popular sports, football is the main one. Tennis and swimming are also rising in popularity. However, due to the recent development of technology, many Iraqis enjoy playing play station, PSP, or any computer games.
Q8.) I heard that the kindness and hospitality of the people in Iraq is what impresses many tourists. What are the cultural values of the people?
A: Iraqis value life and family. This could be seen from how Iraqi schools do not have a one-hour break. Recesses at school are generally about fifteen minutes. This is so that the children can go home quickly to eat dinner with their families. This is the number one priority. Usually, lunch begins from about 3:30 pm to 4 pm and dinner at around 8 pm to even 10 pm.
Q9.) I read that vegetables and cereals are popular in Iraq. Can you please tell us about Iraqi cuisine?
A: Iraqi foods are generally oily. For breakfast, people like to eat cheese, bread, and milk. Breakfasts are quite westernized and are very similar that of a typical American breakfast. For lunch, rice is number one eaten or bread. Kebabs are widely eaten, as well as other types of meat and fish. There is a dish called “Masgouf”, where fish is eaten in a traditional manner, as they would use fire from wood to grill it instead of oven to cook. The smoke and coal makes the fish even more delicious.
Q10.) What is the traditional music of Iraq?
A: Arab music and Kurdish music are the traditional Iraqi music. In recent years, many Iraqi singers are active, since there are even few Iraqi versions of audition shows that air in countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States. Currently, there is a Arab version of “The Voice” and “Arab’s Got Talent”.
Q11.) Can you discuss to us about the main industries in your country?
A: Number one industry is oil. Other industries include gas, silver, and mercury. There is also an Arab fruit called “Dates” that are exported in many other countries.
Q12.) The National Museum of Iraq has been a tourist attraction. Can you please talk to us about the arts in your country?
A: The artists of ancient Iraq are one of the first in the world. There are sculptures and stories created in Mesopotamia as well as some made in Babylon. Iraqi art are very popular in Dubai and are sold in very high prices. In Baghdad, there is also an academy of art, theatre, and music. Furthermore, Iraqi people were creators of numerous essential things we cannot live without. For example, the number “0” originated in Iraq. We now find the number essential as computers could have not existed if there was no zero.
Q13.) What are the historical relationships between Iraq and Japan?
A: The Iraq-Japan relationship began in 1939. Since then, Japan has relied on Iraq for oil and gas exports, whereas Iraq rely Japan on technology.
Q14.) Do you have any message towards the Japanese people or students?
A: The Ambassador commented that he would not like the Japanese people to follow everything that is said on the Japanese news and media regarding Iraq, as they are usually negative. He stated that Japanese people must learn more about Iraq and Iraqi culture in order to judge, as they are not poor but fully cultured. Mesopotamia has been famous worldwide, however about 90% of Mesopotamia was Iraq; therefore he would like to spread the beauty and greatness of Iraq. By learning about Iraq, Japanese people can understand more about Iraq and would certainly love to visit.
(Reported by Kurumi Onishi)
Karen Nishina 5th grade
Saint Maur International School
NATURE: The nature in Iraq is very beautiful. Iraq there are 2 major rivers = Euphrates river and the Tigris river. The 2 rivers meet together in the south of Iraq.In Iraq the land is mostly all flat.It snows in Iraq but only in the North of Iraq.
ANIMALS: In Iraq if you want pets we refer to have fish or birds.
TOURIST: Babylon lion is a place that the Iraqi people recommend to go.
SPORTS: The famous sport in Iraq is soccer. Soccer is the No.1 popular/most played sport in Iraq. Once Japan and Iraq had a match but sadly Iraq lost.
RULES: All family members have to be together. They are strict families like= You need to sleep at 8:00PM. They have strict family rules in Iraq.
FOOD: For lunch, bread and rice are popular food you eat. You usually put soup on the rice and eat. Dates is a fruit that is very sweet and delicious.
OIL: Oil is famous in Iraq (No.1). The main is oil. Many companies borrow oil from Iraq.
ART: There are many museums/galleries in Iraq. There is a very famous artist in Dobai of Iraq. Their is a art from Iraq in Tokyo too. (museum/gallery in Tokyo/Japan)
WORDS: The Iraqi people are proud because they are the first ones who discovered the first words/letters. You write words/paragraphs/sentences from the right to left in Iraq.
RELATIONS: Iraq and Japan's relationship started since 1939.
And now Japanese students visit Iraq to learn and discover interesting things in Iraq.
Madoka Nishina 11th Saint Maur International School
Kurumi Onishi 10th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 5th Saint Maur International School
Haruka Shiga 5th Saint Maur International School