An open letter to Euston Films, Channel 4 and the creators of Baghdad Central.

Ha Jer
4 min readAug 24, 2020



Dear Euston Films, Channel 4 and the creators of Baghdad Central,

As Iraqis and creatives of Iraqi heritage, we are writing to you today to express our grave concern about Baghdad Central. To sideline, decentre and obscure the authentic stories of Iraqis whilst claiming to tell a story about Iraqis and Iraq and profiting from this claim was a deeply irresponsible move at a time when authentic Iraqi narratives receive little to no airtime.

It has become clear through watching and researching the six-episode TV series Baghdad Central (Alice Troughton, Stephen Butchard), and the original book it is based on (Elliott Colla), that these were never intended to tell an Iraqi story, but simply to use Iraq as the backdrop for an “exciting” and “exotic” thriller.

While it was good to see a range of “Iraqi” characters depicted on screen as opposed to what we have seen in previous Western media productions featuring Iraq, Iraqis and Iraqi history, we were discouraged to see a lack of depth and complexity in each and every one of them. Anybody with more than a passing interest in the region would have recognised that the production was not faithful to simple regional variants as dialects, accents and socio-cultural traditions. This is likely due to the fact that the creators and crew behind this TV show were almost entirely not Iraqi.

We ask you this, do production companies believe that creatives from minority communities in the UK and in the West are not worthy of writing about their own people, their communities or their homelands?

Furthermore, none of the major roles in Baghdad Central were played by Iraqi actors, including those of the “Iraqi” characters. In various interviews, the creators claimed to have struggled to find suitably talented Iraqi cast members, yet somehow grossly overlooked actors such as Heather Raffo, Narcy, Isra Elsalihie, Fajer Al-Kaisi, Sasson Gabai, Osamah Sami, Majid Shokor and many more.

It is clear from the size of the production that Channel 4 and Euston Films had the resources to find Iraqi creatives. A simple Google search will yield the names of an overwhelming amount of Iraqi creatives, most of whom are easy to contact via social media. Here are just a few:

Hassan Abdulrazzak (award-winning British Iraqi Playwright)

Leilah Nadir (award-winning Iraqi-Canadian Writer)

Usama Alshaibi (award-winning Iraqi-American filmmaker)

Hasan Namir (award-winning novelist and filmmaker)

Weam Namou (award-winning Assyrian Iraqi-American filmmaker and author)

Ruqaya Izzidien (award-winning Iraqi-Welsh Writer)

The lack of collaboration with Iraqi creatives in the creation of this TV show sends the message that non-Iraqis are better equipped to tell the stories of Iraqis than Iraqis themselves. It also clearly says that the opinion of your majority viewer base about their countries’ involvement in the Iraq war is more important than the fair representation of the Iraqi people and their opinions.

In positions of power and privilege, you hold the responsibility of using your resources in industry to elevate real stories from real Iraqis, rather than creating stories on behalf of Iraqis, or any other minority group, for that matter.

The 2003 US led-coalition invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq left 655,000 people dead. This is only the official estimate. Children are still being born with deformities as a result of chemical warfare by the US-led coalition. Cancer has emerged in new and more insidious forms, also as a result of chemical warfare.

The stories depicting the 2003 Iraq war emerging from the UK are more than just stories, they are historical rewrites, reimaginations and records of the war. Baghdad Central took the place of Iraqis to tell their own stories about the war, something which has had a huge and devastating impact on their lives and homeland.

We hope that Euston Films, Channel 4 and the creators of Baghdad Central acknowledge and apologise for this.

Moving forward, we request that Euston Films, Channel 4 and creators and commissioners everywhere follow the flowchart below (see Figure 1) in all their productions. We hope this can be used constructively to prevent any storytelling about minority communities that is led and executed by people who are not from that community.

Figure 1. ‘Is this your story to tell?’ A Flowchart for Creatives


From the:
Iraqi Diaspora Creatives Network

Hajer (Iraqi-Australian writer and founder of Iraqi Diaspora Creatives Network)
Dania Abdul Magied (Team member of the Iraqi Diaspora Creatives Network)
Iman Shahib
Zainab Al-Lami
Mutana Al-rubaye (Iraqi screenwriter and actor)
Monica Namo
Monika Eliah (Assyrian Iraqi-Australian writer)
Athbi Al-Rubaie
Leila Nadir (Canadian-Iraqi writer)
Alaa Albarkawi (Iraqi-American writer)
Noor Abdulla
Samya Rahmani (Iraqi-Canadian actress)
Andrea Rehani (Iraqi Poet, writer and researcher
Nessma Bashi (Iraqi-American human rights lawyer)
Sura Ali (Iraqi-Canadian Engineer, MBA and journalist)
Zainab Rahim (Iraqi-British writer)
Meryam Al-Barkawi (Iraqi-American writer)
Waleed Rabiaa
Zeadala (Thai-Iraqi Australian singer songwriter)
Sundus Rasheed (Pakistani-Iraqi-Yemeni radio host)
Hasan Namir (Iraqi-Canadian award-winning author)
Mustafa Al Mayyah
Joanne Al-Samarae (Iraqi-British Journalist)

(Many names have been omitted for safety reasons)

Allies in support of the letter

Andrea Lim
Rachel Marie
Matt Fung (Chinese-Australian filmmaker and writer)
James Brennan (Australian radio host and hip hop artist)
Ali Al-Jamri (Bahraini-British poet and writer)
Beats Org (BEATS is a not-for-profit advocacy organisation founded by British East and South East Asians [BESEA] working in the Theatre and Screen industry.)
Rizcel Gagawanan (Phillipina-Australian actress)
Ana Tiwary (Indian-Australian director, producer and storyteller)
Tarik Houchar



Ha Jer

Aussie-Iraqi. Mediocre writer. A Sydney gal with opinions about accurate representations in film and tv. Founder of the Iraqi Diaspora Creatives Network