Traversing city & countryside – map 12

Being the only female teenager in her family, Sanar lived an overly-protected life despite her ambitions. Living in the highly conservative and traditional Mahmudiyah area south of Baghdad meant that the lines between the urban and the rural were blurred just as the lines between freedom and oppression were obscured. Sanar Hasan is an award-winning journalist and a feminist. Her activism came to life during the 2019 Iraqi revolution, also known as the Tishreen Movement as she participated and documented the revolution in Baghdad’s Tahreer Square. Soon after she fled her home alone for a safer and freer place as she sought refuge in the UK.

Sanar recalls:

In 2003 I was a child, only 13 years old, at that age, all I wanted to do is to be close to my family. It is difficult to contemplate now telling another child what we went through because we would be traumatizing them just by telling them our stories. Till this day, even though I am now in a relatively safe place in comparison, I still jump whenever there is a loud bang or if a car skids on the road. Or the fireworks, the sound of the fireworks is unbearable. It takes me a few seconds to remember I am no longer in a war zone.

In times of war, my writing was my world of freedom and refuge. Even though I was a teenager who had not perfected her critical writing skills, I wrote about everything and the details of every day. Every day I would wake up finding that the electricity is out, I used to ask myself: what would tomorrow look like?

I also had toys, like soft toys, that I used to speak with and pretend they are real characters in my life. I still have these toys back home in Iraq. I did not feel the need to bring them here (the UK) with me because here I have real people to talk to. These toys were my friends, I shared my dreams and the details of my life with them. I used to imagine they lived in a place far away from the reality of my life. It might sound strange saying this now, especially since I had these imaginary friends well into my university years.