Is discretion the better part of valour?
Last week’s Unreported World on Channel 4 – a report on Baghdad’s Music and Ballet School - was both inspiring and worrying.
Inspirational because of the commitment of parents and students to persevering with training in subjects that arouse such opposition that they have to keep attendance secret from neighbours.
“Ballet makes me feel I’m in a different world,” said the star pupil.
She wants to go abroad to continue training in order to get away from those who consider it sinful.
A parent recalls hearing about a particular official in the ministry of education who, when passing the school, “turns his face the other way”.
A teacher and some of the parents spoke in the privacy of their homes about their commitment to the arts and their sadness about the rise of fundamentalism which made dance and music dangerous.
It was fascinating and moving. But the TV camera made their privacy meaningless. Did they – to say nothing of the dancer, the pianist and the teacher who were also interviewed in the programme – fully understand the risks of talking to camera?
Yes, the programme would be screened in another country, and not in Iraq, but that doesn’t cover how easily this and other programmes can be recorded and sent back to Iraq or seen on the Internet. It’s great – even heroic – that people speak out against censorship and intolerance, but I am increasingly worried that they are not always properly informed or aware of the potential impact.
+ To see Iraqi art in London try Welcome to Iraq, featuring works by 11 artists, almost all of whom live and work in Iraq. It’s free at the South London Gallery, 65-67 Peckham Road, SE5, until 1 June.
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