There are more than 4,000 Iraqi doctors working in Britain and many of them arrived here as early as the mid-20th century. Many fled to London because of wars with Iran and Kuwait, and the civil war that continues to this day.
At a time when Baghdad was expelling talented and creative people, some of them arrived in London. Zaha Hadid, a young woman from Baghdad, left Iraq in the early seventies when the Baath Party was tightening its iron grip on the country. She studied in Beirut and worked in London where she became the most famous architect in London despite breaking the rules of design and art. She was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of her achievements. Zaha Hadid is one of the most famous architects in the world and worked on a thousand projects in forty countries.
Hadid was not involved in politics even though her father was a minister and a founding member of the politically progressive Ahali group in Iraq. She designed buildings all around the world at a time when her country, Iraq, was being demolished.
She left her mark on various places around the world and designed the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts which was described as the “the most important American building to be completed since the Cold War” by the New York Times. Germany was the first country to experience her talent and her works extended all the way to China.
Even in Riyadh, her work can be seen on the way from the airport. Hadid designed the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center which is a building that stands out with its sharp angles and is a wonderful artistic masterpiece. She also designed the King Abdullah Financial District Metro Station and two buildings that were constructed in Abu Dhabi, the capital of modern Arab architecture. In Qatar, she designed the main stadium which is supposed to host the World Cup in 2022 and that caused controversy over claims by media outlets that a thousand workers were killed during construction at a time when work there had not even begun.
Zaha’s creations are strewn everywhere. The Iraqi President Fuad Masum’s eulogy to Hadid made up for ignorance and forgetfulness. I do not know what happened to her project to build the parliament headquarters in Baghdad which was announced three years ago. Did it fall victim to political chaos or was it stopped due to the scarce oil revenues? She wanted it to symbolise a rise from the debris and success in an era of failure. If constructed, it would have been Iraq’s recognition of one of its greatest citizens.