Courageous Iraqi Musician
The past articles have generally focused on completed cases that our office has been involved in. Today’s article is about an ongoing case that has been the subject of a great deal of media coverage. It is the compelling story of a young Iraqi musician who is filing for political asylum after being threatened with death by Islamic fundamentalists for playing his music in public in Iraq. I would invite you to read the newspaper accounts of his life that have recently appeared in a number of newspapers on the mainland- the site for this article is http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/01/26/254405/disowned-under-threat-iraqi-musician.htmlAs the article indicates, our office is representing this musician free of charge.
Ahmed is 22 years old. He has been growing up most of his life in war-torn Iraq, in the City of Baghdad. His father is a radical Sunni fundamentalist who hates Western culture and does not allow his family to listen to music because he believes that music distracts one from focus on Islam. In the midst of civil war, valence and intolerance, Ahmed was exposed to music-specifically the guitar and later a traditional Middle Eastern instrument called the oud-which was the forerunner of the guitar.
Ahmed was completely consumed by his love of music, and he secretly learned his craft at homes of similarly minded friends. He bought his first guitar by saving pennies a day by working in the market. One day his father found his guitar and he smashed it in front of Ahmed’s eyes and warned him never to play again. Ahmed ignored his father’s warning, and secretly began to play the oud every second available to him. Because of his passion and his natural gift as a musician, he quickly became a master of his craft. All the time, he hid this from his father. In time, he found other musicians who secretly practiced together.
Ahmed decided that music was a gift that needed to be shared with the suffering people of Iraq-to help heal wounds of civil war and to bring the warring factions together through music. He and his friends began to play in public. He and several others performed for children suffering from cancer at the hospital. During the performance, the hospital was stormed by fundamentalist fighters, who destroyed the instruments and threatened to kill them all.
One day a miracle happened: Ahmed was selected from thousands of applicants for a special cross-cultural exchange program by the U.S. Government.He would join other young talented musicians in the U.S. for a collaborative program that brought together musicians from around the world who had demonstrated community activism and musical talent. The program was fully funded by the U.S. Government.
Ahmed hoped that this amazing achievement would change his father’s mind about his musical career so he went to his father the same day he got his US visa. His father angrily gave him a choice: either give up your music or give up your family. As Ahmed said to me, it was the best and worst day of my life. His father disowned him, and he was left forced to live on the streets of Baghdad until a friend took him in for 2 weeks before he was to leave for the U.S. Since that day, he has never spoken to his family again. When I learned of his case, our office immediately decided to represent him at no cost.
Ahmed joined our large family gathering for Thanksgiving and played his oud. His case for political asylum is pending. Many young musicians from the United States have written letters supporting his dream for freedom. Now the newspapers have joined the in to express their support for this courageous young man. As this case unfolds, I will update the status and report on his hopes for freedom.