Swedish city offers Gaza rapper safe city residency

Video interview with rapper Khaled Harara from Palestine who the Swedish city of Gothenburg has announced will be offered a ‘safe city’ residency for two years.

In April 2013, the 26-year-old rapper Khaled Harara came to the Freemuse secretariat in Copenhagen. Having toured Denmark, he was afraid of returning to his home in Gaza. Khaled Harara and several other rappers have for years been harassed by police and self-established religious authorities.

“The Hamas government has hijacked Islam and [mis]uses it to control people,” Khaled Harara told Freemuse.


‘Devil’s work’
Khaled Harara is very concrete in his criticism of the government controlling the Gaza Strip of Palestine, and his criticism has put him into trouble over the years. Already in 2008 after a concert in Rashad Shawwa, the biggest theatre in Gaza, he was confronted with the control as he was sitting with friends in a café after the concert. Two teenagers came and told him to get up, follow them and bring his laptop.

“They showed me an ID card stating that they were ‘support forces for Qasam Forces’ – self-established reporters to police and religious authorities. When people present those cards you do not ‘mess with them’, you follow them,” Khaled told Freemuse during one of several visits to the secretariat during the period he waited to get to Gothenburg.

Khaled went outside the café and after a few minutes, a civilian jeep came, and several armed police officers stepped out. One of the officers said:

“Oh, it’s you! You say ‘Palestine’ on the stage and put your hands between your legs.”

Khaled replied that this was nonsense, but the officer started yelling, and threatened him: “We are going to show you how to respect Palestine!”

They continued saying that what Khaled was doing was the ‘devil’s work’.


Religion hijacked
As Khaled Harara told Freemuse his story about years of harassment, beating, and threats on his life, his face darkened. Like thousands of other young people, he sees no future in Gaza. According to Harara religion has become like a commercial commodity.

“When they decide to judge people and tell them what is right or wrong they do not talk about legislation. They would tell you that it is ‘haram’ and right or wrong according to their interpretation of Islam. It was never like that before. Christians and Muslims lived peacefully together. These political Islamic groups came into to our society with a different mentality. They have hijacked Islam,” said Khaled Harara.

His rap lyrics address the political and social situation in Gaza. And young people listen.

“I talk about the political Islam, the fake Islam. I am proud of being a Muslim. I talk about the real Islam, which respect people and human rights. Freedom of expression is important because we are humans. This is the simplest right of human rights to say what is right and what is wrong with no one shooting you just because you don’t agree with their mentality.”


The video interview was conducted and filmed by Ole Reitov


Göteborgs Stad kulturförvaltning – 16 September 2013:
Träffa Göteborgs nya fristadsförfattare!
Press release from the City Council of Gothenburg announcing a press meeting on 19 September 2013 at 3pm: ‘Meet Gothenburg’s new safe city artists’. In Swedish language.




The song ‘Nos Kalami 2’ performed by Maqdsi featuring Khaled Harara. Published on youtube.com on 20 January 2012.