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The Trauma of Terror

Iraqi academic Dr Al-Bazoon witnessed first-hand the invasion of his homeland and the brutal aftermath of a country divided by violence. Here he explains how he is confronting the repercussions of war and terrorism through his innovative research at the University of Chichester.

Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon

The deafening sounds of emergency sirens, combat tanks, and military warplanes resonated across Iraq long after coalition forces had overthrown Saddam Hussain and his government. The violence, death, and chaos brought by the war on terror only served to further divide a scarred by battle nation for more than a decade after the 2003 conflict.

This is the modern history of a society blighted by trauma – and it is one which remains largely unreported in the UK, according to an Iraqi academic who now resides at the University of Chichester. It is a story of war, terrorism, and suffering which Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon, a distinguished lecturer from Basra University, intends to retell through exploration of the Arabic literary responses to the conflict that are unpublished in the West.

“The conflict did not only bring about destruction and chaos but, rather, led to a sectarian conflict that tore the country into divisions,” says Dr Al-Bazoon, who teaches at the University within its department of English and Creative Writing. “The war did not defeat terrorism as assumed in its original plan but instead strengthened terrorist groups during the early years of the invasion.”

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Life under the Threat of Terror

Dr Al-Bazoon had joined the University of Basrah as a senior English lecturer only two weeks prior to the 2003 invasion and, following its temporary closure, accepted a request from the British Armed Forces to act as an interpreter during the conquest of Iraq’s second-largest city. Within days he had received hundreds of death-threats from insurgents operating in the region.

Fearing for their safety, Dr Al-Bazoon brought his family to Chichester in 2009 and began a doctoral scholarship specialising in literary responses to the 9/11 attacks, the war on terror and the occupation of Iraq and their effect on Iraq. The ensuing poetry collection, The War on Idigna, written about the conflict and the humanitarian crises that enfolded, received overwhelming critical acclaim and was shortlisted at the 2010 National Poetry Anthology awards.

“My aim was to acquaint Western readers with the disaster of the war in a poetic language written in English by an Iraqi,” says Dr Al-Bazoon of his work. “Most of the fiction and poetry and drama written on that topic are either in Arabic, or translated into English, whereas I wanted to communicate directly about the pains, destruction, and the disaster of the war.”

Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon at the University of Chichester

Confronting the Invasion through Short Fiction

The poetry collection, which tells of how the rich history and heritage of Iraq was destroyed by tyrannical leaders, was to become the underpinning of Dr Al-Bazoon’s venerated academic research investigating the fallout of the war. His innovative work embodies the Anglo-American and Arab novelists and poets who have fictionalised the conflict and explores how widespread destruction of the nation has since entered cultural consciousness.

At the forefront of his research was a specialist symposium organised by Dr Al-Bazoon in London earlier this month exploring the traumatic consequences of conflict. The War, Terrorism, and Trauma conference, which brought together scholars and artists from across the world, was a collaborative effort between Chichester and CREST [the Consortium for Research Excellence, Support, and Training] to discuss the ongoing European refugee issue, the fight against Islamic State militants, and Syria's resultant humanitarian crisis.

“The symposium created a dialogue of how these impacts are represented, presented, and discussed in academia and art,” says Dr Al-Bazoon. “It highlighted how these two disciplines offer certain solutions for those traumatised by the effects of war and terrorism.”

In spite of the growing educational sector within Iraq since the war, the lecturer continued to receive threats to his life after returning to Iraq in 2014. The University subsequently plotted to offer him a Visiting Scholar award, supported by the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund, to enable the academic to undertake a Post Doctoral Research at the institution.

Dr Al-Bazoon says he will continue to confront the repercussions of war and terrorism throughout his Chichester scholarship and plans to reveal new research later this year.  He offered an insight into his latest work – on Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon and his novel The Corpse Washer – at a recent conference in the University of York.

The novel, Dr Al-Bazoon adds, blends reality with fantasy where death shapes daily life and society descends into an underworld where there is no refuge from unending nightmares. “This is the repercussions of war and terror on Iraq,” he adds, “a place where bombings visit every street.”

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Find out more

The story of how Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon was granted a University scholarship in the face of threats to his life is available at www.chi.ac.uk/news/untold-story-chichester-fund-which-safeguarded-iraqi-academic-terrorism.

Alternatively for more about Dr Al-Bazoon and his research in contemporary fiction and terrorism go to www.chi.ac.uk/staff/waleed-al-bazoon.