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Forbidden Music – Mosul Violinist Brings Back Music

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A violinist returns to play amongst ruins in a city where playing music is forbidden and punishable by death.

Ameen Mukdad, a violinist from the Iraqi city of Mosul has returned to Mosul to give his first performance near a popular site after fleeing the city when threatened by the so-called Islamic State. Isis had seized control over the city nearly three years ago and banned music amongst other things such as mobile phones, satellite dishes and cigarettes as part of their austere rule.

The concert was attended by only 20 people and held a site which is believed to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah in the Bible or Younis in the Koran. This site is admired and revered by both Muslims and Christians and was partly destroyed by the militants in 2014.

The last time Ameen Mukdad played in public was on 10th June 2014, the day, the IS took control of the city. He fled to Baghdad with his family, but when he came to collect his instruments which he had left behind, the militants did not allow him to leave again. What is more, when they discovered that Mukdad was playing in secret, they confiscated all of his instruments and other possessions related to music such as CDs. However, this did not stop the gifted violinist, who is mostly self-taught. He hid in a relative’s house and built an instrument out of wood and old guitar strings.

The Iraqi government and a US – led coalition have been fighting since October 2016 to gain back control over Mosul, which is a major city in Iraq and have now taken back large parts of the city.

During the concert, sounds of explosions and bombings could be heard.

Another musician, a friend of Mukdad told Reuters that he, like many others are too afraid to play music or even listen to it. He added that “people always liked music but were afraid to acknowledge this because of them. We opposed them and we risked death.”

Mukdad wants to give hope to people and send a message: “I want to take the opportunity to send a message to the world, and send a strike against terrorism and all ideologies which restrict freedom, that music is a beautiful thing.”

The concert was set up by a blogger behind the Mosul Eye website, a blog which wants to keep people informed about the situation in Mosul. In a post, the blogger announced having contacted Mukdad earlier this week and that the concert would take place the following day. The post said that the message of the event was “to tell the world that Mosul is free although half of it is still under fire, it’s looking for books and music to be born again.”

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Jenny Bui

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