By Army Sgt. Brian Tierce
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 25, 2009 - Eight months of work by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi Education Ministry officials culminated in a June 23 ceremony celebrating renovation of the Baghdad School of Arts for Girls in the Iraqi capital's Mansour district. Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team worked with Iraqi education officials to make the renovations a reality.
"Today's event is under the slogan 'Art can talk,'" said Kareema Hashim, the school's headmistress. "We look forward to the increased production of the students, thanks to the generosity of our friends in supporting this art school."
Hashim said the school opened its doors in 1935 and has graduated many famous Iraqi artists over the years. But in recent years, degraded security led to the school being unable to maintain operations, and the equipment the students used became either outdated or unserviceable.
After discovering the school in their area of operations, soldiers from the brigade's 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, kick-started an effort with support from the Education Ministry to provide the school with equipment. With help from Deputy Education Minister Nihad Abbas Shihad al-Juburi, a contract was established to provide the students with the tools they need to develop their abilities.
"Through projects like this, Dr. Nihad is fulfilling his vision for educating Iraq's young women in the best possible artistic techniques," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Beckert, the brigade's deputy commander. "I wish all of you the best of luck in the coming school year using the equipment in the great institute, and I ask that you accept it as a gift from the American people."
The chance to refurbish the school was made possible by the improved security in the area. The contractor who performed the upgrades said the situation has seen a marked improvement since he began working with coalition forces.
"I have worked with the American Army for four years; I have worked over 50 contracts and through many difficult times," Abbas al-Maliki said. "Thanks to security improvements made by the presence of the Iraqi army, Iraqi police and the Sons of Iraq [civilian security group], the neighborhood is no longer safe for the enemies of Iraq."
With a learning environment safe from the worries of external dangers, officials expressed the hope that the school can help to foster an artistic renaissance here.
"I thank the teachers and the professors here at the institute for their dedication and their love of the arts and for transferring that love of art to their students," Beckert said.
(Army Sgt. Brian Tierce serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)