The Current

'Nobody's listening': Documentary reveals firsthand struggle for survival in Iraq

Medic Nori Sharif takes us through five years of dramatic change in Iraq's "triangle of death" in the the documentary, Nowhere to Hide.
Nori Sharif's son Mustapha repeats the words, 'God, don't let the plane bomb us' as his sister requests in the documentary, Nowhere to Hide - following the lives of Iraqis as they struggle to survive after American troops retreated in 2011. (Ten Thousand Images)

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* Warning: This conversation might be disturbing to some listeners.

The city of Mosul may be days away from liberation as Iraqi forces have reclaimed the ruined mosque where ISIS proclaimed its caliphate three years ago.

But for millions of Iraqis dislodged by years of conflict, there is no home left to return to. 
'When you’ve been exposed to injustice, you want to do something about it,' says Zaradasht Ahmed, director of Nowhere to Hide. (Ten Thousand Images)

The upheaval and heartbreak of one of the world's most dangerous places — known as the "triangle of death" in central Iraq — is documented in  Nowhere to Hide. The film begins soon after American troops retreated in 2011.

Zaradasht Ahmed, the film's director, tells The Current's guest host Mike Finnerty that bearing witness to the stories of people struggling to live in Iraq after the departure of U.S. and coalition troops had a profound impact.

"Nobody's listening … nobody cares about them. And when you've been exposed to injustice, you want to do something about it," Ahmed admits.

"As a human, it stays with you. You try to tell it."

'People here have been forgotten along with their stories,' says Iraqi nurse Nori Sharif. (Ten Thousand Images)

When Ahmed met Nori Sharif, a 36-year-old husband, father of four children, and a male nurse who stayed in the conflict zone to be of service to his community, he gave him a camera.

Sharif provides a glimpse into the world's most inaccessible areas, documenting the persistence, hope and faith of Iraqis over the stretch of five years. He traces the aftermath of what his fellow Iraqis call the "American war."

"It is difficult to diagnose this war. It is an undiagnosed war. You only see the symptoms, the killing, displacements, the blood baths. But you don't understand the disease. It is hidden in the body," Sharif says in the film.

"The purpose of this war is to make you confused and unable to think straight ... to paralyze your will and determination."

Nori Sharif worked in a hospital in Jawala, in central Iraq, from 2011 until he was forced to leave by the arrival of ISIS in 2014. (Ten Thousand Images)

Sharif remembers a simpler life before the invasion but says people have been forgotten — along with their stories.

"Neither the media, nor the authorities are interested in these people. The only thing you hear about this area is that people who live here are either killers or terrorists," he says.

Ahmed says there is a solution to change this perception and he hopes a key message resonates from his documentary.

"The first thing is that we have to care. That's essential, that's the start. We start to think, listening to the other side. We have to care before that and then we listen," he tells Finnerty.

A wedding celebration is captured - a moment of joy - in the documentary, Nowhere to Hide. (Ten Thousand Images)

Sharif suggests in the film that Iraq may lose a generation, maybe even two, but in the end the will to build will win over the forces.

It's a an outcome that Ahmed shares too on the future of Iraq.

"Survival is always stronger than the will of destruction and death because as a matter of fact we are here today. Otherwise once that will of destruction wins, that will be the end."

Sharif and his family are now living in the Sa'ad camp for internally displaced persons, joining other homeless Iraqis who are now refugees in their own country.

Nowhere to Hide opens Friday, June 30, in theatres in Toronto and Vancouver.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith.