The Mother is the symbol of Iraqi martyrdom, not the soldier.

Opinion Jun 07, 2020 1 min read

Today, Firdos Square is known for the infamous scene where the statue of former President Saddam Hussein was brought down during the 2003 US occupation. Few people know that there existed another statue before that of Saddam Hussein's on Firdos Square. Between 1961 and 1982, the monument of the unknown soldier stood in the middle of Firdos Square. This monument was designed by the legendary Iraqi architect Rifat Chaterji. The monument was a tribute to the Iraqi liberation struggle against Western colonialism and dominance. The monument represents a crying mother who bends over her tortured son to embrace him. Thanks to the preserved sketch notes (see below) by Rifat Chaterji, we now know that this image tells a story of the following four scenes (read from right to left):

The mother sees her dead son and cries

She is trying to pick up her son

The mother bends over to hug him

The mother places her hands and feet in the ground around her son and becomes one with him.

It is fascinating that in Iraq the loving mother is more centered than the warring soldier himself in memorials of past wars and national self-image. In 1982, this deeply symbolic monument was destroyed and replaced by the statue of Saddam Hussein in an attempt to redesign the essence of Iraqi martyrdom. Whether this was a successful attempt by Iraq's former president, only time will tell.

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