Activism Rising in Baghdad: Anti-ISIS Musicians, Bloggers and Volunteer Builders give Iraqis Cause for Hope
It’s becoming something of a habit for Karim Wasfi, cellist and conductor with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. In the days following a bombing in Baghdad Wasfi has been going to the site of the damage or of other violent incidents and playing his cello in the ruins. On May 20, he was at it again.
“The message I want to deliver is that the sound of music and of life is louder than destruction, killing , displacement and looting,” Wasfi explained.
“I am just one of the people in this country who is suffering everyday. But we also all love life and art. I feel so happy when I play in the aftermath of a bomb because I feel that music has the potential to build the place up again. Music helps people strive to build things up again, it revives hopes and it assures them that there is a future.”
“Cleaning the site of a bombing up isn’t enough,” Wasfi concludes. “We need music because this is the sound of life and of peace, it reminds people of the beauty that is possible in life and expels the ugliness.”
Wasfi even made it to the site of recent riots in Baghdad. On May 13, Shiite Muslim pilgrims were heading through the mostly Sunni-Muslim neighbourhood of Adhamiya to visit a nearby shrine when alarm spread through the crowd; rumour had it there was a Sunni suicide bomber in their midst.
This set off panic and then calls for revenge, which were then acted out upon homes and locals in the Sunni neighbourhood. Houses were torched, locals were injured and a building belonging to the Sunni endowment, the body that manages funding for Sunni religious organisations and mosques, was damaged.
Yet, somewhat surprisingly considering the roads were all blocked, shortly after the riots stopped, Wasfi managed to get there and he began playing his cello again.