OWFI on the airwaves with Radio Al Musawat
Between OWFI’s headquarters in Al Sadoon and Abu Nawas along the Tigris River, is a small apartment on the fourth floor of a run down building in post invasion Baghdad. The morning shift starts at 9:00 AM when four Iraqi women, including Baghdad’s only female radio producer, Lara Mohammed, wholeheartedly produce and create feminist radio content and shows on the Iraqi women’s resistance.
The weekly programming includes 5 shows and 1 local news broadcast anchored by Dania Emad. Basma Lateef and Ahlam Alobaidi discuss women’s issues in Iraq and the Arab world on the Sunday talk-show entitled “Nisa’ fi nisa’”.
The Wednesday show where men professionals are invited to discuss social norms, laws and policies that affect women, is named after “Kahramana” the legendary woman who outsmarted 40 men thieves and whose historic monument sits majestically only a few minutes walk from the studio.
The evening programming is produced by Mohammed Alasmar and includes political and social content anchored by Amir Abed, Qasem Mohammed.
“Usboo’ Alsyasi” runs twice spotlighting the politics and activities of OWFI, while “Maqal fe Usboo’” breaks down the Iraqi political landscape. The radio also has a sports show about local football matches and disability sports, as well as a show called “basamat shababya” which interviews young Iraqi talent between ages 12 to 16 years, a poetry show and a show about Iraqi painting and visual art anchored by a professor at Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts. The radio also has a weekly slot at NAWA’s Middle East Radio 89.9 from 4pm to 5pm, where so far 105 hours summaries of all the programming have been broadcast to a much wider audience.
Since OWFI started in 2003, the activists of the organization were interviewed extensively over local and international media outlets. The community radio station started out as a tool for organizing Iraqi women, creating awareness within the community at large about women’s dilemma in Iraq and to be a feminist voice which influences the political landscape in Iraq. We named the station “Al Musawat” meaning equality, and with the support of the community were able to buy broadcasting equipment to cover most of the city of Baghdad. The radio station was installed in 2009 and was run by the residents of our shelters, especially those who had ambitions to become journalists, reporters and media people.
In the year 2010 a nearby explosion damaged our studios and this stopped the broadcasting of the radio for many months. In the year that followed the radio’s campaigns against the Jaafari law, which would legalize child marriage for girls, were heard over all Baghdad. This angered those in power and we eventually were sent an order to officially close down the radio by the CMC, The National Communications and Media Commission of Iraq. When we protested we were faced with false allegations that our registration papers were not in order and many bureaucratic obstacles including a 50 million dinar fine.
OWFI activists are not the kind of people who give up or give in easily. In June 2014 we switched the radio from the airwaves over to internet broadcast. This
allowed us to access cities all over Iraq and the world, and incorporate a visual component, thus making “Al Musawat” an embryonic TV station.