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by Ahmed Hassan Al-Mayahi from Diyala
Creative Writing Project

Ahmed Al Mayahi W
Salam Yousry © Goethe-Institut

Ahmed Hassan Al-Mayahi was born in the city of Diyala, where he also currently lives and works. Al-Mayahi obtained his bachelor’s in Science and Engineering in 2017. He also studied in Jordan at the American University, obtaining a certificate in Human Development. Al-Mayahi was initially interested in human rights work, and he was involved as a volunteer in many activities in the defence of human rights, the environment and culture in Iraq. Although he greatly valued this work, his love for books and reading led him to open a bookstore with some other people in his city, and to later run a creative writing project for aspiring new writers.

Al-Mayahi’s creative writing workshops aim to teach story writing techniques to those who are in the process of writing. Al-Mayahi believes that these workshops are beneficial for those who have difficulty seeing their projects through to the end. The objective is to provide proper guidance so that aspiring writers may produce good writing, which will in turn benefit the city’s cultural landscape.

The number of participants in this workshop is twenty people, with ages ranging between 16 to 35 years.  There will be two sets of workshops lasting four days. Famous Iraqi novelist Hassan Falih will run the workshops. Having such an experienced and well-known person will hopefully serve as motivation to participants to both learn from him and continue with their own writing. The organisers would like to see a high number of women participate in order to break the gender apartheid imposed on this city. The project will start in the beginning of August this year. 

Al-Mayahi has big dreams; he wants to leave his fingerprint on the city’s cultural life. He believes that Diyala is ignored in the cultural, artistic and literary scenes. The city does not have famous artists, writers and thinkers as of yet, and Al-Mayahi hopes that his project can be a stepping stone for aspiring writers to shine.

Diyala was destroyed by ISIS, which has scarred the city’s population. In order to protect themselves, people stayed indoors during ISIS’ reign of terror. They view everything with suspicion, and this makes it difficult for them to engage with such activities. Al-Mayahi believes that humans need to be nurtured, and their awareness raised. He has many initiatives in mind. He collected books and made them available for free at the city’s “I love Diyala” book festival to motivate people to read.

All these initiatives are aimed at revitalizing a city ignored and marginalised in the aftermath of the war. To this date, there are still signs of destruction and fear in people’s hearts and thoughts. This is why Al-Mayahi’s work might not be easy in a city that is still haunted by the traumas of war, but it is not impossible.

Art and culture can play an important role in rebuilding society and bring it out of the darkness and wounds ISIS inflicted. A cultural awakening for Diyala will be a saviour.