Born in 1919 in Iraq, Selim is one of the best known sculptors of modern art in Iraq. In 1938, he was sent to study the art of sculpture at the Beaux Arts, Paris and then traveled to Rome in 1939. During World War II he returned to Baghdad, where he was appointed instructor of sculpture at the newly established School of Fine Arts. He was also employed by the Iraqi Museum in the restoration of Mesopotamian artifacts. In 1946, Selim travelled to London to pursue further studies at the Slade School of Art and won a prize at the international competition that was held by the contemporary art institute in London at the Tate Gallery in 1953. After returning to Iraq, he both painted and sculpted, and established the Baghdad Group for Modern Art. He was given the position of head of the sculpture department at the Institute of Fine Arts and after the fall of the monarchy in 1958, he was commissioned by the regime of Abd al-Karim Qasim to design and execute a massive monument titled Al-Hurriya (Freedom), consisting of fourteen bronze units.