Banned TV drama that broke Iraq’s taboos returns after 27 years

‘Drug-fuelled wealth’

Decades of instability have created “a class of people who have profited from the chaos,” Hikmat said, pointing in particular at newly wealthy drug dealers.

“Young people fall victim to this dark path.”

Iraq, traditionally mainly a transit country for drugs, has faced an explosion in narcotics use in recent years, mainly of the amphetamine-like stimulant captagon and crystal meth.

The first series of “Wahiba’s World”, released in 1997, told the story of Wahiba, a nurse who makes every effort to help her neighbours amid the crippling international sanctions that plunged many Iraqis into poverty and crime.

Seventeen minutes into the broadcast of the first episode, authorities banned the programme, fearing it could incite people against the regime.

A year later, the show received a regional prize and authorities allowed it to be aired, but only at midday, considered a dead time slot.

This year, the show began airing on the first day of Ramadan during prime time on the Iraqi local private channel UTV.

Several actors had died during the long hiatus, but many others reprised their roles. In the revival, Wahiba plays a supporting part to her granddaughter and namesake, a psychiatrist, as the main character.

In a busy industrial area in Baghdad’s centre, in the same garage where scenes from the first series were shot, director Hikmat filmed a segment in which drug lord Alaa threatens to behead a member of his gang.

Actor Zuhair Rashid, who portrays the drug dealer Alaa, said the programme showed the grim reality of “drug-fuelled wealth, its consequences and tragic endings”.

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