Professor Jaafar Jotheri is a Geo-archaeologist at the University of Qadisiyah. Jaafar is originally from Babylon but in 2003, he was studying for his Masters degree in Geology at the University of Baghdad. Jaafar’s map reveals the traces of refuge-making in the continuous charting of routes of mobility: from the city to the village, from the village to the marshes, and from the material (the old family Chawen) and geographical (the Marshes) to the digital in aid of preservation.
Jaafar recalls with a voice filled with emotion and trauma:
I was doing my 2nd year Masters at the time in 2003, in the Department of Geology at Baghdad University, and my mother insisted that I go back to Babylon because Baghdad was too dangerous. I left half of my luggage, books, and everything else in the student hostel and then I got a ride from Baghdad to Babylon. I stayed in the countryside. We followed the news about what was happening in the south and in Baghdad, and when the coalition forces came near Babylon, we started to see more military presence. We stayed in the countryside because it was safe and closer to the marshes if we needed to take refuge. Only cities were dangerous at that time. But I saw lots of people coming from cities staying in schools or mosques and even stayed in abandoned houses, which are made from mud in the countryside.
Jaafar then went on to describe his efforts to preserve his family story:
I digitized everything, I have three copies of hard drives to protect our memories and my family’s memories. This is a coping strategy when you live in an unsustainable and unpredictable way of life in Iraq. I learned it the hard way after a friend in Mosul lost all their memories when their house burned down during the ISIS offenses, suddenly they were left with nothing.
So you see, we are preparing to move at any time, to be attacked at any time, so we have to be agile in our thinking of preserving our heritage and history all the time. This is what living through a continuous trauma looks like.