Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton recently traveled to Iraq to attend Baghdad’s International Flowers Cultural Festival and to help celebrate Baghdad’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature.  

Throgmorton and University of Iowa International Writing Program Director Christopher Merrill were both personally invited by the city’s first female mayor, Thikra Alwash, to attend the city’s festival in late April. The festival showcased floral displays from Baghdad and cities around the world, aiming to strengthen international cooperation between cities in UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Baghdad and Iowa City are both UNESCO Cities of Literature, with Baghdad receiving designation in 2015.

The visit was coordinated by the Director of Baghdad’s UNESCO City of Literature, Sadek Mohammed, who has attended the UI’s International Writing Program.

At a City Council meeting on April 18, Mayor Throgmorton proclaimed the week of April 23–29, 2017 to be a “Week of Peace and Friendship with the People of Baghdad.” He read that proclamation to Mayor Alwash during his visit.

While in Baghdad, Throgmorton and Merrill toured the world-renowned Iraq National Museum, visited the Baghdad City Museum, attended the opening ceremony of the Flowers Festival, took a boat ride along the Tigris River, and enjoyed listening to many traditional Baghdadi musicians and singers. The two also walked through the crowded “Bookseller Street” and other portions of old Baghdad, while meeting and speaking with many residents of the city. They also had numerous conversations with delegates from other countries, often over late night dinners with Mayor Alwash and Sheik Ibrahim Howash.

“This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Mayor Throgmorton said. “We were able to absorb and appreciate Baghdad’s culture and beauty, while being treated with great warmth and generosity by everyone we met.”

On their last night in Baghdad, Mayor Throgmorton said he and Merrill witnessed a car bomb explode about 500 meters away from them, killing at least four people and injuring many others.

“The explosion was a stark reminder that Baghdad still faces formidable challenges,” Throgmorton said. 

A video of Mayor Throgmorton reading the proclamation to Mayor Alwash is available on YouTube.

Iowa City will host the 2018 annual meeting of UNESCO Cities of Literature as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of its designation as a City of Literature

Date of publication

Friday, May 12, 2017