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"My life is here"

Looking for Bomb Fragments - Baghdad, Iraq
The aftermath of a bombing in Baghdad (BBC World Service)

Samer (not his real name) is a professional violinist in his twenties from Baghdad. Last year, he fled the violence in the city to Syria, only to return nine months later, despite the dangers.



“Though the situation in Iraq is terrible for all Iraqis, the appearance of religious militias after the invasion in 2003 has made things especially difficult for musicians,” Samer told IRIN in a telephone interview. He explained that extremist militias, which had no presence in Baghdad prior to the start of the war, frequently target Iraqis involved in the arts; they consider music in particular as forbidden. “I continue to practice, study and perform, but just to be safe I carry my violin in a black plastic bag so no one recognizes it,” Samer said.



Last year, he had enough and decided to leave Iraq. “After travelling in and out of Iraq several times, including to Egypt, I decided to go to Syria, where I continued to study, in the hope that I could lead a safer life there. In Baghdad, things are very difficult for us all, and the threat of death is everywhere.”



But he was deeply unhappy in Syria. “I love Iraq so much, and my love is what gives me inspiration to play music. Leaving Iraq made me lose my inspiration to play, and therefore my reason for being. My life is here, and my decision to stay and to continue being a musician is my personal way of resisting the destruction that is being inflicted on my country.”



Unlike the majority of returning refugees who are unable to meet their most basic needs, Samer does not regret his decision to go home.



“What I do wish for, however, is the right to travel, to take my music to other countries and to share our culture with other people,” he said. “But, as you know, it is extremely hard for an Iraqi to get a visa for most countries. I wish this would change, because we have so much to share, including a rich, ancient culture, and such love for the arts.”



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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