Story of Umar
"Mosul, the city that I loved, was destroyed," – says Umar Abdul Nasser, Iraqi poet, and performer currently living in Berlin, Germany. , He spent two years in the Polish city Wrocław, where he has been invited by a Norway-based organization called ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network), which aims to offer shelter to artists at risk. "Danger has been ever-present in my life – recalls Umar. – I was born in the 80s during the war between Iraq and Iran. I started as a poet in 2000 when Iraq was still under Saddam's dictatorship. My generation could not see any hope of safety. Every time we would open our eyes, we would see wars". However, the worst was yet to happen. US military intervention in Iraq in 2003 and the total destabilization it caused was the beginning of a new violent and dangerous era in the region with constant acts of terror, persecutions, and general turmoil.
"During the civil war, even having the name Umar was enough to get me killed" – he confessed. However, he used his art as a peaceful weapon of resistance, a medium for spreading strength and hope, and an empowerment tool. "I was performing with a violinist and composer-friend from Mosul called Ameen Mokdad. Each time we came together, we expected someone would blow themselves up, but we could not just do nothing. Then, in 2014, ISIS came. That changed everything". It was impossible to perform in public anymore; people could go to jail or even be killed because of that. So Umar decided to share his art and spread his call on social media instead. "It was the only way to scream against what was happening. My last space of freedom".
Finally, when he could not stay any longer, having realized that ISIS troops were wreaking havoc on his closest neighborhood, he managed to leave Mosul in search of a brighter future. When asked what exile meant to him, he answered: "When one's nation is at war, and people would always have to choose either between a homeland without freedom and peace, or peace and freedom without a homeland. This decision is probably is the hardest choice everyone has to make when thinking about exile".