Iraq: Musicians and music listeners get killed

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Iraq:
Musicians and music listeners get killed

Musicians, music shop owners and music fans flee from death squads of Islamic extremists in Baghdad. It is no longer safe to sell music in central and southern Iraq, reported Associated Press on 16 March 2007

Similar to the present development in north-western Pakistan, Islamic extremist militants are forcing stores which sell CDs and DVDs to shut down in central and southern Iraq, and according to Associated Press’ correspondents in Iraq, Omar Sinan and Yahya Barzanji, there has even been incidents where employees of music stores have been killed.

In November 2006, it was reported by a UN news agency that at least 75 singers have been killed since the turmoil began in Iraq in 2003, among these the 20-year-old singer Muhammad Jabry whose decapitated body was found with a note saying that “this was the destiny of those who sing American words”.

In the capital city, people have stopped listening to music in public because they fear that they will draw the attention of Islamic hardliners who regard pop music a source of corruption and shameful decadence. Listening to Western pop music, and more specifically: American pop music, will make you an associate with the American troops in the country. People are afraid even to walk into a music store fearing that someone is watching them, and faced with these dangers of purchasing music, many Baghdad residents turn to the Internet, using their mobile phones to listen to songs.

“You deserve to die”

Associated Press interviewed a 21-year-old man who ran his own music store in eastern Baghdad until, in September 2006, followers of the radical shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr came to his shop and told him to shut it down. They left a letter saying:

    “You infidel and devil-follower … you deserve to die for pushing Muslims to corruption and adultery.”

The young shop owner did not take the threat seriously at first, but then men dressed in black sprayed his shop with gunfire, destroying it and wounding him. He fled Baghdad and now works as an employee in a music store in Sulaimaniyah which, like the rest of autonomous Kurdistan, is largely secular.

The manager of the Aldar Albaidaa music store chain confirmed that it is no longer safe to sell music in central and southern Iraq. He spoke with the Associated Press by telephone on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals. During the summer 2006, militiamen broke into the chain’s Baghdad branch and demanded it be shut down. The manager negotiatied with them to keep the store open, but under a strict set of conditions: No hanging pictures of female singers on the storefront and no loudspeakers playing music outside.

The article on music prohibition in Iraq by Associated Press was printed in Washington Post, the Columbian, and The Columbus Dispatch in USA, The Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, and C-News in Canada, Telegram.com, Yahoo.com, and in numerous other news outlets.

“Art is my blood”

During the past 12 months, both shiite and sunni Muslim extremists have grown bolder in enforcing their religious strictures on the citizens of Iraq. Below are three quotes from the past year which further describe the situation in Iraq:

• In April 2006, a teacher at the Baghdad’s Music and Ballet School told Cox News Service that she occasionally changes cars to fool anyone who might be tracking her. She had had one close call when her driver eluded gunmen trying to force them to pull over. The 30-year-old teacher, Alla’a Ali al-Lami, said that extremists are misusing religion as “a hook to hang all their issues on.”

• In June 2006, Istar, writer of the weblog ‘Iraqi Screen’, wrote:
When I had the chance to sit with an Iraqi singer who also plays on lute and asked him how could he sing and play on these crazy days, the artist said: “I live in Sader city, I can’t walk in the street carrying my lute with me, I am hiding it here and there in fear some gunmen would see me and kill me, I have received many threats ordering me to give up singing because it is Haram (forbidden) or I would be killed, but I love art, it is in my blood. Which is better – to be a singer or a killer?”

• Nearly 80 percent of the country’s singers have fled the country and at least 75 singers had been killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimated the Iraqi Artist’s Association according to IRIN in November 2006.

Sources

Associated Press – 16 March 2007:
‘Iraqi Music Business Reflects Hardships’
 
Photo accompaigning the story: Music store in Sulaimaniyah in Iraq

Related articles

Cox Washington – 30 April 2006:

‘Music School Perseveres Despite War Dangers’

InterIslam.org – 2001:

‘Prohibitions: Music in Islam’

Google News – continuously updated:

Search ‘Iraq’ + ‘music’

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