By Sally Hayden
LONDON, March 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - War-torn Iraq may never recover unless the Western world learns to connect and identify with the people of the Middle Eastern nation, a Kurdish-Norwegian filmmaker said on Friday.
His documentary film "Nowhere to Hide" could help Westerners to understand and empathize with the suffering of Iraqi families, Zaradasht Ahmed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Filmed in northern Iraq over five years, "Nowhere to Hide" recounts the rise of Islamic State that in 2014 took over the town of Jalawla, northeast of Baghdad, through the eyes of a young medic working in a hospital.
Forced to flee, the medic and his family live in a displacement camp and are frightened to return home.
Promoting his film at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, Ahmed said he would like outsiders to see struggling Iraqis as fellow human beings, not set them apart as refugees.
"There is nothing called the refugee crisis," he said. "There are humanitarian crises. There are economic crises. There are war crises."
The film director is pessimistic about the future of Iraq, which he said was permanently scarred by the invasion in 2003 of U.S. and British forces set on ousting its leader Saddam Hussein.
Now, he said, those Western nations do not recognize problems they started and "look at Iraq as a failure state without feeling like they had a hand on it."
"We have to have more solidarity and try to think of Iraq as also part of this planet," the filmmaker said.
Much of "Nowhere to Hide" was filmed by the medic, Nori Sharif, whom Ahmed taught to use a camera.
Sharif began filming in 2011 and recorded the retreat of the Iraqi Army from Jalawla in 2013 because of growing militant activity.
The director was born and raised in northern Iraq. His film on illegal immigration to Europe, made for SVT, Swedish public television, was screened at a number of film festivals.
(Reporting by Sally Hayden, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst )