Iraq: Religious restrictions cause singers to flee

20 May 2008
 Singers, musicians and other artists are fleeing Iraq after dozens have been killed by Islamic radicals determined to eradicate all culture associated with the West, reported The Observer on 11 May 2008

In November 2007, Seif Yehia, 23, was beheaded for singing Western songs at weddings. Since the US-led invasion in 2003 at least 115 singers have been killed, according to figures from the Iraqi Artists’ Association – a figure which has increased with 40 more deaths since November 2006.

In an article in The Observer on 11 May 2008 Afif Sarhan wrote from Baghdad, in co-operation with Caroline Davies in the United Kingdom:

“The terror campaign has escalated in recent months as both Shia and Sunni extremists grow ever bolder in enforcing religious restrictions on the citizens of Iraq. Those (artists) remaining are in hiding as they make preparations to get themselves and their families to safety.”

The Iraqi Ministry of Culture has estimated that about 80 per cent of singers and other artists have now fled the country, stated the Observer article. Cinemas, art galleries, theatres, and concert halls have been destroyed in grenade and mortar attacks in Basra and Baghdad. Singer Muthana al-Jaffar, 37, from Baghdad, was quoted as saying:

“The government is not giving us any protection. I witnessed two of my friends being killed for singing Western songs at weddings. The Shia extremists who killed them shouted that that was the price they had to pay for singing ‘the devil’s words’. (…) We are packing and next Monday I should be far from Iraq, a country that one day inspired my songs but today is just a disgrace,” he told The Observer.

In March 2008, the Associated Press published a similar report from Baghdad about the exodus of musicians because of death squads of Islamic extremists.




The Observer / The Guardian – 11 May 2008:

‘Iraqi artists and singers flee amid crackdown on forbidden culture’

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