Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian Ambassador to Iraq Dalil Al-Qasus called on Arab countries during a celebration of Palestinian culture in Baghdad on Saturday to close their embassies in Israel as a sign of support to the Palestinian people.
Al-Qasus spoke at the landmark event honoring Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture 2009 in Baghdad. Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic) was selected for the honor by the Arab League Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization (ALESCO) after Baghdad announced it would not be able to participate.
Baghdad was selected for the honor in 2005, but withdrew its bid due to security chaos. According to the Palestinian planners of the Jerusalem festival, it may have been easier to hold the events in Iraq after all.
No celebrations of Al-Quds Capital of Culture have been permitted in Jerusalem. Israeli forces shut down literary events, arrested balloon launchers and raided community centers in efforts to stifle the event's programs. The official opening ceremonies for the year were held south of Bethlehem.
In Baghdad, the Jerusalem festival was held at the Iraqi National Theater under patronage of former undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, poet, Jabir Al-Jabiri, and a group of Iraqi intellectuals.
“It is very interesting to voice support for Jerusalem in Iraq especially during this critical time in Jerusalem. It is also great to see the Iraqi and Palestinian flags fluttering together. This is a message to the oppressors telling them the Palestinians and the Iraqis are one people,” the Palestinian ambassador said in his speech to the assembled crowd.
For his part, Al-Jabiri sent greetings to Jerusalem describing it as a city “topping the throne of Arab culture and [its] struggle.”
Iraqi and Palestinian folklore bands displayed Dabka dancing and traditional Iraqi and Palestinian songs.