Baghdad .
Follow Lifeforcemag on Twitter
Baghdad Today photographs by Marieke van der Velden Words by Paulien Bakker During her trip to Baghdad, journalist Paulien Bakker spent and a morning, an afternoon or sometimes an evening with ordinary Baghdadis in their barbershops, schools or psychiatric clinics, in what is called the "Red Zone" of Iraq's capital. After 11 trips to Iraq, she noticed that Iraq is so much more than what we see in the newspapers and on television. The media focuses exclusively on men with rifles in pickup trucks and bomb blasts. But when you turn the camera just a few degrees away from these images, you can see that life goes on despite the violence and the presence of foreign troops. She went back to report on daily life, and I joined her. Baghdadis have a startling vitality, as we noticed when we went to the theater and the audience wouldn't stop cheering and clapping - although the show had yet to begin. Despite the sectarian violence of recent years, people wanted us to photograph them. "Show people in the West the other side," they would say. "Show them Baghdad is more than the daily violence".   Because we only see attacks and militia, it is difficult for us to identify with the ordinary citizens from Baghdad. Yet daily life must go on. At the opening of the first department store in Baghdad, Maxi Mall (forced to open a week early by a begging crowd of customers), store manager Sadeer told us "Many people have said they were afraid to go outside. But if we continue to worry, we will not be able to move on. We must overcome our fear. That is what I think and what everyone who works here thinks. We have wasted too much time in our lives, we want to live again." Or in the words of Khduer, the fat boy with just one hand: "As long as you don't give up, there is life". The pictures show a much neglected side of Baghdad - they show a remarkable, inspiring resilience. 'Sticky bomb': a magnetic bomb thrown under a minibus, the local public transportation. Bodybuilder working out in a gym on Kerada.  In recent years bodybuilding has become increasingly popular in Baghdad. Young cameraman Firas in front of the bombed house of his uncle, his neighbour. Young children in the house of Abu Anwar, who lost his wife and five children in the sectarian war in 2005.  His new wife said: "He wanted to revenge the killers but found out he couldn't do it." Khduer (22) just two days before his gastric bypass surgery. His life motto: "Never give up, as long as there is life, there is hope." Boys at the 3D-theatre in Zawra park. The permanent fairground at Zawra park. Baghdadi families like to come here during the weekends to stroll along the fairground attractions or have a picnic on the grass. The permanent fairground at Zawra park. The permanent fairground at Zawra park. Abu Anwar and his new wife in front the 2000 year old monument Ctesiphon in Salman Pak, 35 km outside of Baghdad city. 21 year old Baghdadi journalist Maryam. Militia at Zawra Park, protecting the park during Eid at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Fresh juice bar Meshmisha on the popular shopping street Kerada is always packed with families on summer evenings. Fresh juice bar Meshmisha on the popular shopping street Kerada. Fresh juice bar Meshmisha on the popular shopping street Kerada. Boys at a swimming pool at one of the fish restaurants between the river Tigris and the busy Abu Nawas street.
Please note:   Life Force magazine is greatly supported by you looking at our advertising which is free to view. Paulien Bakker has covered Iraq as an independent journalist since 2008. Her book 'A romantic people' about the oil rich city of Kirkuk, was published in 2010 to critical acclaim in the Netherlands. The swords, a statue to commemorate the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, the hands holding the swords were allegedly made after Saddams own hands. The monument lies in what is now the sealed off Green Zone in Baghdad.