The Iraqi peasant who only had his tears

Culture Jun 07, 2020 1 min read

In the history of mankind, agriculture was first practiced in Iraq. Farmers have always been at the heart of what Iraq was and is today. In this painting we see one of the first and few modern paintings of an Iraqi farmer painted by the famous Shakir Hassan al-Said.

In 1920, 70% of Iraq's inhabitants lived in the countryside. This was 57% around 1960, and from 1980 to the present the percentage stabilized around 30%. The plea and poorness of the Iraqi farmer has long been a socio-political problem. Until the revolution of Abdul Karim Qasim in 1958, that led to the implementation of massive land reforms, inequality in the countryside was enormous. Before the reforms, the landowners, who were supported by the Iraqi king and the British, took most of the profit from all the work of the farmers. Secondly, the farmers were paid very little for their work and were situated in very poor living conditions. Finally, the major landowners had weapons and militias at their disposal to monitor rebellious farmers and violently crush them. For a long time, the poor Iraqi farmer had nowhere else to go but to his own pain and tears. Painter Shakir Hassan Al-Said, who grew up close to the countryside in Samawa, was familiar with the plight of the Iraqi farmer which leaded to his following statement:

"On my way from school, I used to see scores of faces, brown faces, painful and toiling faces. How close they were to my heart! They pressed me and I passed them again and again. They suffered and I felt their suffering. The peasants with their loose belts were pricked by thorns. They were so close to my heart!"

The above image is a Shakir’s painting and ode to the Iraqi peasant.

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