Iraq: Traditional Iraqi music under threat

11 February 2004
Iraq: Shia extremists want music silenced

Iraqi musicians have been targeted by some Muslim radicals
who want to wipe out many features of secular Iraq, writes

Famous across Iraq for their sea shanties, musicians in southern Iraq’s Basra port, who have endured conflict and poverty under the 12 years of sanctions, are facing a new threat from Shia radicals who want to silence their instruments.

Grenade attacks blamed on Shia extremists have already targeted the cluster of shops crammed with drums, lutes and trumpets in the backstreets of old Basra’s Summar district, where musicians meet to practise and take bookings.

The Iraqi musician Muhammad Salih said the Iraqi music style was a national treasure that should be preserved: “The Basra music style is the most wonderful in the area. We hoped that it would stand a better chance now of being heard by people who love it, even outside Iraq. The Iraqi music style in general is a national treasure that should be preserved,” Salih said.

Clubs shut

Concert halls and clubs in the city have been shuttered by Shia religious leaders in the city, flexing their muscles after years of being held back by successive secular governments in Iraq. “Two weeks ago, someone threw a hand grenade at my shop. The situation is very unstable and we feel restricted,” Nasrat Nasir told

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