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Saturday, May 18, 2024

“Wahiba’s World”: The 27-year-old TV show that smashed taboos in Iraq is back

<p>An Iraqi TV show that was shut down by Saddam Hussein 27 years ago for showing a realistic portrayal of life under sanctions has resurfaced, showing drug lords prospering in the nation devastated by conflict.</p>
<p><img decoding=”async” class=”alignnone wp-image-524951″ src=”https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/theindiaprint.com-wahibas-world-the-27-year-old-tv-show-that-smashed-taboos-in-iraq-is-back-newindia-750×499.jpg” alt=”theindiaprint.com wahibas world the 27 year old tv show that smashed taboos in iraq is back newindia” width=”1075″ height=”715″ title=”"Wahiba's World": The 27-year-old TV show that smashed taboos in Iraq is back 30″ srcset=”https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/theindiaprint.com-wahibas-world-the-27-year-old-tv-show-that-smashed-taboos-in-iraq-is-back-newindia-750×499.jpg 750w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/theindiaprint.com-wahibas-world-the-27-year-old-tv-show-that-smashed-taboos-in-iraq-is-back-newindia-1024×682.jpg 1024w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/theindiaprint.com-wahibas-world-the-27-year-old-tv-show-that-smashed-taboos-in-iraq-is-back-newindia-768×511.jpg 768w, https://www.theindiaprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/theindiaprint.com-wahibas-world-the-27-year-old-tv-show-that-smashed-taboos-in-iraq-is-back-newindia.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 1075px) 100vw, 1075px” /></p>
<p>During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the devout tune in to their favorite programs after breaking their daily fast at dusk, television viewership in the Middle East often rises.</p>
<p>A resurrected “Wahiba’s World” is one of numerous Iraqi performances during Ramadan that address societal concerns including drug addiction, criminality, divorce, and joblessness.</p>
<p>As a result of conflict and instability, it explores “issues troubling our society,” the program’s director Samer Hikmat told AFP.</p>
<p>Since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and the invasion of Kuwait by former dictator Saddam Hussein in 1990, which resulted in severe economic sanctions, Iraqis have endured decades of hardship.</p>
<p>A civil war, sectarian slaughter, a US-led invasion in 2003, and the jihadist proto-state of the Islamic State group—which was finally vanquished in late 2017—followed them.</p>
<p>The 43 million people living in this oil-rich nation are still getting over its violent past and are now dealing with widespread corruption and clientelism, a faltering economy, subpar public services, and high unemployment.</p>
<p>‘Wealth fueled by drugs’</p>
<p>Thirty years of instability have produced “a class of people who have profited from the chaos,” Hikmat remarked, referring specifically to the recently affluent drug traffickers.</p>
<p>“Young people fall victim to this dark path.”</p>
<p>Iraq, which has historically been mostly a drug transit nation, has seen a sharp rise in drug use in recent years, mostly for crystal meth and captagon, stimulants similar to amphetamines.</p>
<p>Released in 1997, the first season of “Wahiba’s World” followed the tale of Wahiba, a nurse who, in the face of severe international sanctions that drove many Iraqis into destitution and criminality, does her hardest to assist her neighbors.</p>
<p>Authorities prohibited the show after only seventeen minutes of the first episode’s airing because they thought it might instigate people to oppose the government.</p>
<p>After a year, the program was given a regional award and broadcasters agreed to let it air—but only during noon, which was deemed a dead period.</p>
<p>This year, the program debuted on the Iraqi local private channel UTV at prime time on the first day of Ramadan.</p>
<p>During the protracted break, a number of performers passed away, but many more returned to their roles. Wahiba takes a supporting role in the revival, with her namesake, a psychiatrist, serving as the primary character and her grandchild.</p>
<p>Director Hikmat shot a scene in which drug lord Alaa threatens to behead a member of his gang in the same garage used for filming sequences from the first season, in a bustling industrial neighborhood in the center of Baghdad.</p>
<p>“Drug-fuelled wealth, its consequences and tragic endings” is the gloomy reality shown in the program, according to actor Zuhair Rashid, who plays heroin dealer Alaa.</p>
<p>“Sensitive matters”</p>
<p>Iraq’s tired entertainment sector is still far from being known in a region where Syrian and Egyptian shows have long maintained the top rank, despite their attempts.</p>
<p>Drama series in Iraq, which exclusively run on local television, have mostly centered on narratives about the struggle against the jihadists and their ruthless reign since the advent of IS.</p>
<p>However, reviewer Mehdi Abbas said that “the majority of this year’s shows tackling issues that are a threat to society” is a striking trend during Ramadan.</p>
<p>Another recent production, “Nay” (which means flute in Arabic), tackles the widening wealth and poverty gaps as well as unemployment, particularly among art students.</p>
<p>The show, according to actress Suzanne Salehi, who plays the lead role, chronicles youths’ “yearning for an opportunity”.</p>
<p>The Iraqi television series “Separation” is based on true divorce tales that author Hassaballah Yehya documented in court, which reflects the rising divorce rates in the nation.</p>
<p>It also addresses child marriage, which is widespread in Iraq, particularly in the countryside. Iraq’s legal marriage age is 18, but with parental or court approval, it may be decreased to 15.</p>
<p>Yehya said, “People usually avoid sensitive issues,” and that “we’re trying to break taboos.”</p>

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