Dr Dhirgham Alobaydi, from Baghdad, is the Chair of the Department of Architecture Engineering at the University of Baghdad, College of Engineering. Dhirgham’s map traverses national and international borders with several lines of mobility as Dhirgham and his family sought refuge though back alleys and other difficult routes between city and countryside, and national and international beckoning for work or family ties. Dhirgham, originally from the New Baghdad area situated to the East of Baghdad, found refuge in material objects that also at times represented the face of violence. The New Baghdad area is a highly dense urban area in Baghdad situated by the Army Canal highway that divides several similar neighbourhoods, such as Sadr City, to the East of the Tigris River.
In 2003 we boarded up all the windows with sheets of wood and we kept only one door. This was a risky move because if a house gets bombed or if an accident happens inside then there is only one way out. But we had to do what we did to protect all entrances into our property. We stayed in our home in a Shia majority neighbourhood and everyone knew one another, that is how we lived together under the rule of Ba’athists for over 18 years.
During the years of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, I faced problems moving across the city between my home and workplace because of my surname which is predominantly a Sunni surname but there are a few Shia with that name too. My parents worried about me and so I had to leave the area or leave Iraq altogether. At that time, I was fortunate to have a one-year contract to work in Muscat, Oman, so I left. Till this day, wooden boards remind me of both war and refuge. They were heavily used during the war to protect us. The other object is the prayer rug (Sijade) as well as the Holy book of Quran. Both of which are objects of refuge for me wherever I go.