Yemen: Concert became courageous manifestation against terrorism

19 February 2008
Syrian singer Assala Nasry defied death threats by al-Qaida members in Yemen before her concert in Aden. The concert became a huge success.

Assala Nasry was nervous when she stepped into Aden’s airport with her mother and children. She had received four e-mails containing threats that she would be killed if she came to Yemen where she had been invited to perform at the first Aden Singing Festival. The e-mails said the concert was a call for vice and pornography.

A week earlier, a press statement allegedly by al-Qaida said Assala Nasry would meet the same fate of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto if she dared come over for the concert. Additionally, some Islamic scholars had stated that the concert was a violation of Sharia (Islamic law) and the constitution.

One of the persons who initiated a campaign against her concert is a 30-year-old parliament member named Fuad Dahabnah. He is also a sheikh (mosque preacher) belonging to one of the very conservative Islamic fundamentalist opposition parties.

At a press conference in Aden held before the concert Assala Nasry made it clear that she intends to reach her fans anywhere and that threats like these won’t stop her because her singing style is respectful and appreciated. “The message of my art is peace and love for the whole world,” she said, citing Yemeni singer Abu Bakr Salem and Lebanese singer Fayrouz as her teachers and models.

Several newspapers in Yemen published advertisements which told people not to believe the extremists, hinting that Aden is not a Taliban emirate, and urging people not to believe those who see music as infidelity.

Received a house as a gift
Some sources say the concert was attended by as many as 50,000 people. The Yemen Post reported that Assala Nasry was surprised and worried at the way the festival was disorganised, as fans were chanting and standing on seats, making her feel uncomfortable. Her performance lasted less than two hours.

Marwan al Khalid, president and manager of the Aden Artistic Festival, was able to present Assala Nasry with a villa in Aden for her courageous stance against terrorism. The investors of Fardous City in Aden, considered to be the largest real-estate project in the Arab Peninsula, granted the first villa to the Syrian singer at a low cost.

According to the London daily Elaph, al Khalid denied rumors that there was a chance of cancelling the festival because of the threats from al-Qaida. The dilemmas surrounding the festival were political and not religious, he said. He also said that the threats were good propaganda for the concert as it raised public awareness of the event and many more tickets were sold than they had expected.

Call for boycott via SMS chain
Local religious leaders sent SMS messages via cellular phones and distributed handouts in stores and cafés asking people to boycott Assala Nasry’s concert.

Some people thought the concert would be in celebration of Valentine’s Day, and this increased the anger of those who refuse to celebrate this day because it is considered a Western or American occasion. Marwan al Khalid explained that the decision to hold Assala Nasry’s concert on 14 February was because of the timing of flights and not because of Valentine’s Day.

Marwan al Khalid said that 15 percent of the festival’s profit would go to those in need in the Gaza strip and another 15 percent to cancer patients at the Al-Amal Cancer Center in Aden.




Assala Nasry

(often also spelled Asala or Asalah Nasri)

Fuad Dahabnah



Al Bawaba – 19 February 2008:

‘Villa owned by Asala in Yemen’

Gulf News – 15 February 2008:

‘Death threats will not stop me, says Arab diva on eve of Yemen concert’

Related reading on

Shoot the Singer! Music Censorship Today
New book on worldwide censorship of music, edited by Marie Korpe (Executive Director, Freemuse), published by Zed Books, London, on 18 May 2004.
Shoot the Singer! Music Censorship Today was presented at a combined book launch and one-day seminar on music censorship at SOAS, University of London, on 18 May.

Read more

  Shoot the Singer! Read more
Home / News / Yemen: Concert became courageous manifestation against terrorism