Iraqi artists, trade unionists and others who fled from persecution at the hands of the Ba’ath regime are joining forces with the newly emerging democratic trade union movement there in a traveling theater company to promote union rights among the people.

With more than 50 percent of the Iraqi people unemployed, Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions’ (IFTU) priority is to secure jobs and a living wage for Iraqi workers.

“To achieve this, the urgent task of educating Iraqi workers about trade unionism, labor and democratic rights, health and safety and other issues becomes more and more urgent,” the IFTU said in a statement.

“It is our modest aim, with the assistance of the international labor movement, to take traveling theater companies to every workplace in Iraq to explain through the medium of theater, poetry and exhibitions. Theatre is a great popular tradition among the Iraqi people.”

The group is launching the project by equipping a bus as a traveling theater to tour Iraqi workplaces and communities. To raise money for the project they are organizing the “Khalil Shawqi Appeal,” named for an actor-playwright and former railroad worker, who was the subject of the Iraqi film “Khalil Shawqi: The Ever Restless Man.” The film won the “Silver Hawk” award for short documentary film at the Fourth Arab Film Festival in Rotterdam last month.