Iraq: 75 singers killed

29 November 2006
Nearly 80 percent of all Iraqi singers have fled the country and at least 75 singers had been killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the Iraqi Artist’s Association. This was mentioned in an article by the UN news service IRIN about the murder of a 20-year-old Iraqi singer

IRIN, a humanitarian news and information service under the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reported in November 2006 about the 20-year-old Iraqi singer Muhammad Jabry who was killed by militants. His 32-year-old brother, Youssef Jabry, told how it happened:

“They broke into our house shouting his name loudly. They carried him off, and a week later we found his decapitated body with a note saying that this was the destiny of those who sing American words.”

Youssef Jabry is a well-known singer in Iraq. He sings for a living in parties, weddings and all sorts of gatherings. But there is no future in Iraq for a singer unless he starts to sing religious songs, he told IRIN’s reporter. In the beginning of 2006, Youssef Jabry was warned directly of the consequences of singing the wrong songs:

“They [the religious extremists] came to me in a marriage party while I was singing and told me that I cannot sing the music of the devil and if I continued I was going to be killed. Since then, I only sing Arabic songs. People still insist that I sing Western songs but I cannot put my life at risk,” Youssef Jabry said, adding that he has to be very careful about which Arabic songs he sings too, as some are deemed by the extremists to be too Western.”

Youssef Jabry said that he has lost hundreds of dollars in the 10 months since he was threatened.

“I need to sing because it is my job and the only thing I know how to do exceptionally. But with such restrictions on what can be sung, plus the security problems, people are not having many parties any more and the ones I’m lucky enough to sing at are paying very badly.”

Singers in Iraq are suffering

The musicians and singers in Iraq are suffering at the hands of religious extremists and are struggling to make a living with the general decrease in demand for singers because of the war situation as well as because of threats from religious groups.

The Iraqi Artist’s Association said in November 2006 that nearly 80 percent of the singers during Saddam’s era have fled the country and that at least 75 singers had been killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Youssef Jabry said the way things are going in Iraq, he would not be surprised if he were to become another statistic to add to the Iraqi Artist’s Association’s tally. “Maybe I am going to be near him [his dead brother] very soon, and the only thing I’m sorry about is leaving my family without support,” he said. But he also holds onto dreams of a better day:

“I dream of the day that I will take a microphone and sing again with my heart and not with my mind. I dream of the day that I will look in people’s eyes while I sing and they will be happy and satisfied – and not scared that at any point an extremist could break into the party and shoot everyone dead because they are hearing the ‘devil’s song’,” Youssef Jabri said.

His younger brother also had many dreams. “He was a happy boy whose life was ended by those who twist Islamic law according to their own ideology and change it according to what suits them,” said Youssef Jabry to IRIN.



IRIN – 23 November 2006:
‘IRAQ: Singing “the devil’s music” will get you killed’

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