In Iraq, Where Beauty Was Long Suppressed, Art Flowers Amid Protests

By Alissa J. Rubin
An anti-government protester painted a mural on Sadoun Street in downtown Baghdad. Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
BAGHDAD — Hollow-cheeked and shivering slightly in jeans he had outgrown, Abdullah stood in an unfinished parking garage, transfixed in front of a mural whose meaning he was eager to decode for a visitor. Drawn in charcoal in a socialist-realist style, the mural, more than 12 feet long, showed a group of men walking forward and carrying their fallen friends in their arms. The men depicted were unmistakably Everyman laborers, with rough clothes and strained faces. Abdullah, 18 — is now an unofficial art guide to one of the most unlikely galleries imaginable: a 15-story shell of a structure, known locally by all as the Turkish Restaurant building, that looks over the Tigris River. It is the self-declared stronghold of Iraqis who oppose the country’s current leadership. [More]