Iraq has lived under a nearly-continuous state of conflict or international sanctions since 1980, the year the war with neighbouring Iran began.
After the ravages of Saddam Hussein’s decades in power, and the chaos that’s taken hold for most of the years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, it’s difficult for outsiders to envision the country as a thriving or even functional place.
The recent gains by the radical jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and its assorted allies helps to perpetuate this view. Iraq seems like a hopelessly broken place.
But before its decades of war and totalitarian rule, Iraq was a quickly modernizing country. The British archival footage company Pathe recently shared a travel reel that showcased the beauty and diversity of scenery found throughout the country between 1950 and 1959 on YouTube.
Below we have highlighted some photos that highlight what Iraq was like before decades of war and conflict affected the county.
Baghdad was a modernizing city, with wide boulevards and grassy traffic circles.
Public pools were becoming more common throughout the city …
And girls were encouraged to go to school, where they studied and played games like volleyball.
There was an aspiring middle class, which shared combine western and local norms.
A national police force was also formed.
In the south of Iraq, the port city of Basra was hailed as a Middle Eastern Venice.
Basra was a bustling global hub as it exported goods out into the Persian Gulf.
In the marshes in southern Iraq, along the Tirgis and Euphrates rivers, the “Marsh Arabs” continued their centuries-old way of life.
Many of the marshes were drained by Saddam Hussein after the 1991 uprisings in Iraq.
Kurds in northern Iraq also retained their unique culture …
… As did dwellers in the deserts of western Iraq.
— Iraq Pictures (@IraqPics) April 16, 2014
Below is the original British Pathe video:
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