IRAQ. Basra governorate. Basra. April 3, 2003. A soldier serving with Number 1 Company 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards, looks for possible Iraqi enemy positions, as Royal Engineer technicians prepare to cap one of the burning oil wells within the city of Basra.

Photograph: WO2 Giles Penfound/MOD

Who was Alhazen?

Born around a thousand years ago in present day Iraq, Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (known in the West by the Latinized form of his first name “Alhazen”) was a pioneering scientific thinker who made important contributions to the understanding of astronomy and mathematics as well as vision, optics and light. al-Haytham was born in 965 CE in Basra. However, he spent most of his life around the Fatimid Caliphate in Cairo, and died there in 1040 CE. His first project? He proposed to the Caliph a hydraulic project to improve regulation of the flooding of the Nile, and his method included an early attempt at building a dam at the present site of the Aswan Dam!

To have food and shelter, al-Haytham tutored various nobility while writing treatises on subjects that interested him. Among other things, he was the first to explain that vision occurs when light bounces on an object and then is directed to one’s eyes, he is considered the first theoretical physicist, and he began the mathematics to connect algebra and geometry.

IRAQ. Basra governorate. Old Basra. May 26, 2003. An Iraqi police clerk fills out a report in the former office of the head of the Republic Party of Basra in one of the old Ba’ath Party Headquarters-turned-police station. As part of the philosophy of the Royal Military Police, the soldiers are teaching Iraqi Policemen to fill out reports for all everything that happens in their jurisdiction, in an effort to eventually pass all responsibility on to the Iraqis. There is rising speculation as to whether the British manner of patrolling Basra has been more successful in governing the city in contrast to the American’s more stand-off-ish approach to governing Baghdad. Unlike the Americans in Baghdad, the British often patrol Basra with no body armour and no helmets, and sometimes go out without their automatic weapons.

Photograph: Lynsey Addario/Getty

Get up brother, the war is over. They have taken your tank to the smelter but your rifle still lies on the mountain. At last, the sands have erased your courage and farmers now plant leaves where you fell. The trees you planted have died. The enemy have taken the mountain that you vowed you would never abandon. From the ice-covered summits, they’ve lowered your banner, which was raised until your downfall. They’ve plundered your uniform and your plunder. And no matter how dead you were, they kept riddling your corpse with bullets. Though the worms crawled out of your eyes - and your large heart - they still couldn’t believe that you were dead. You had been their worst nightmare. Get up my brother, the war is over (…) My mother is still in bed. I spoke with her of your height and your strong arms. How delighted she was when they couldn’t find any shoes that would fit you. She asked me how you were sleeping and I was filled with sorrow to tell her that you hadn’t slept for seven years. That a shell from an enormous gun shattered your ribs, and stripped you of your youth. So I let the sun set upon your name and dreams, put to rest the settled dust that you have become. Between your life, your death, there is a distance of six children.
Important daily reminder

Without Muslims, you wouldn’t have:

1. Coffee, which an Arab named Khalid invented

2. Clocks, by a man called al-Jazari from Diyarbakir in South-East Turkey in the 1200s

3. Cameras, Ibn al-Haitham revolutionized optics

4. Cleanliness (toothbrush, soap, perfumes, etc)

5. Universities, because of Fatima al-Fihri

6. Planes, because of Abbas ibn Firnas who was the first person to make a real attempt to construct a flying machine and actually fly

7. Surgical instruments, by a man from the 10th century named Abul Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbad al-Zahrawi, a man known in the West as Abulcasis

8. Maps

9. Music, al-Kindi, an artist long ago, created the system of writing down songs

10. Algebra, which was introduced by Al-Khwarizmi

11. Guitar, which was originally known as a “qitara” in the Arabic of Andalusia

12. Magnifying glasses/glasses, the scholar Alhazen (Abu al-Hasan) from Basra was the first person to describe how the eye works

13. Hospitals

14. Distillation, was invented around the year 800 by Islam’s foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry

15. Vacation, brought to Europe from Turkey

And the list goes on. I just picked some of the ones that are still used a lot

Iraq. Basra governorate. Basra. 2004. An armed member of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army stands guard over the Central Sunni mosque, where Friday prayers are being performed. 

The U.S. provided more than 165,000 Kalashnikovs to Iraqi security forces from 2003 to 2006, a significant number of which wound up on the black market. Indeed, Iraq’s recent history is clearly reflected in the changing price of the gun on the street. Just after the invasion, as soldiers laid down their weapons, looters raided armories and optimism briefly overtook the country, weapons prices dropped. In the summer of 2003, as multiple customers entered the market, from recently released common criminals to Sunni insurgents to Shi’ite paramilitary units, prices rose again.

Photograph: Abbas/Magnum Photos

Cities of Mesopotamia

Baghdad (بغداد‎) - Iraq

Al-Raqqah (الرقة) - Syria

Basra (البصرة‎) - Iraq

Deir ez-Zor (دير الزور) - Syria

Fallujah (الفلوجة‎) - Iraq

Hesice ( Hesîçe‎  ܚܣܟܗ) - Kurdistan/Assyria

Karbala (كربلاء‎) - Iraq

Mardin (Mêrdîn ܡܶܪܕܺܝܢ‎) Kurdistan/Assyria

Mosul (الموصل‎) - Iraq

Najaf (النجف‎) - Iraq

Qamislo (Qamişlo‎ ܩܡܫܠܐ) - Kurdistan/Assyria

Ramadi (الرمادي‎) - Iraq

Tikrit (تكريت‎) - Iraq

The Zanj Rebellion or the Negro Rebellion was the culmination of series of small revolts, that is now known as the biggest slave rebellion of the Arab slave trade. It took place near the city of Basra, located in present-day southern Iraq, over a period of fifteen years (AD 869–883). The insurrection is believed to have involved enslaved Bantus (Zanj) that had originally been captured from the African Great Lakes region and areas further south in East Africa. It grew to involve over 500,000 slaves and free men who were imported from across the Muslim empire and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in lower Iraq”.The precise composition of the rebels is debated among historians, both as regards their identity and as to the proportion of slaves and free among them – available historical sources being open to various interpretations.

The revolt was said to have been led by Ali bin Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendant of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib. Several historians, such as al-Tabari and al-Masudi, consider this revolt one of the “most vicious and brutal uprisings” of the many disturbances that plagued the Abbasid central government.

The Zanj Revolt helped Ahmad ibn Tulun to create an independent state in Egypt. It is only after defeating the Zanj Revolt that the Abbasids were able to turn their attention to Egypt and end the Tulunid dynasty with great destruction.