Friday, March 27, 2009

Zuhal Sultan - National Youth Orchestra Of Iraq

I couple of days ago I received a request via the email below.

It is about a young Iraqi woman, named Zuhal Sultan. According to the email, Ms. Sultan is campaigning to form the first ever National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, with further plans to tour around Iraq. At the moment she is in the UK to participate in a conference.

More about this below.

Anyone living in the UK and reading this post, please pass through the message below and if anyone can attend this event and get some pictures, maybe, that would be nice to post it here too or let me know where they are posted.

Any way of support given is much appreciated to make this initiative a success.

I am writing on behalf of a wonderful initiative that a young pianist in Baghdad is campaigning to establish in Iraq. If you are currently in the UK we would like to invite you to a very special event and we would be very grateful if you could forward information via your website, and suggest individuals or organisations with whom we might get in touch to make the most of this special opportunity.

17 year old Iraqi pianist Zuhal Sultan is campaigning to form the first ever National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. Zuhal believes the orchestra can bring together young people from different racial and religious groups. She wants the orchestra to give the young people a voice and to help them feel optimistic about their country and their future: “I am aware that I cannot erase years of war and conflict damage, but what I can do is bring positivity back into people's lives.”

Zuhal plans to form an orchestra of young people that meets at a summer academy for rehearsals each year, then tours across Iraq and abroad.

So far Zuhal has gained the on-going support of Channel 4’s youth campaigning project ‘Battlefront’, voluntary music charity Making Music, US-based music organisation Musicians For Harmony and conductor Paul MacAlindin. She also has the support of the Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who has offered to be the orchestra’s composer-in-residence.

Zuhal has been scouring her country for talent and has already found 40 potential youth orchestra members. Her current quest is to find professional musicians abroad to volunteer one-to-one tuition for these young people via the web. Not only is there currently no youth orchestra in Iraq but there is also a dire shortage of professional musicians in Iraq to train these young musicians in their craft.

It’s an ambitious project, but Zuhal is an extraordinary and gifted young woman, and she is determined to succeed in her plans.

In a wonderful and timely gesture the British Council and Fairsay (eCampaigning charity) have made it possible for Zuhal to travel to the UK and participate in an international eCampaigning conference. While she is here, she will give a recital at the Wigmore Hall in London at 1pm on Thursday 2 April, hosted by Battlefront. Zuhal will play and then talk about her project and about life in Iraq for her and her peers, with a Q & A session. It will offer a unique opportunity to learn more about this inspiring project.

Tickets for this event are free – you just need to sign up at or email

Whatever your interest – be it in spreading the word, in volunteering as a trustee, as a potential donor to this project as it gets off the ground, or simply out of personal interest in seeing something positive happening in Iraqi musical life – please come and support Zuhal at this event and join us in welcoming her to her first visit to the UK.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Justice Will Prevail

aamrya This is the slogan the families of the victims of Al Amiriya shelter in Baghdad during a live coverage from the bunker itself by Al Baghdadia satellite channel a couple of days ago to commemorate the victims of that criminal act during the 1991.

There were interviews with families of the victims and other people living in the surrounding area of the shelter – one of them told the story how he heard the first blast and after the second he ran towards the shelter, went to the second floor and saw people in flames screaming for help. Another told of his son who was in the shelter when it happened, the father went inside and saw his son, he was 12 years old then rapped in a blanket, his body was burned from toe to head, the whole flesh was eaten by the fire.

The families of the victims, old and young men and women appealed to the Iraqi government to re-open the shelter to public, which was closed in 2003 after the US occupation of Iraq. They called for effort and work on rebuilding the site and to make it a museum for others to see and remember those men, women, children and elderly people their lives were taken without purpose, and reason.

Some families were puzzled with the fact that human life is precious in many countries, taking an example of the terrorist attack on PAN AM flight in 1988, and they asked for justice, a similar fairness in assessing the altitude of this tragedy .

I was surprised to know from that live coverage that the US forces entered the shelter in 2003, torn up the pictures of victims hanging on walls, stepped on some of them with their boots and even sprayed their machine guns on the walls.

While I was watching, it crossed my mind many places I visited in the past in Europe to commemorate the victims of World War I and II, not to forget Hitler’s victims e.g. Auschwitz.

Would be wrong if Al Amiriya shelter be included as part of UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites? Maybe not! It is not the Pyramids.

It all goes back to one concept: how valuable those who died to their own people in order to make others from other countries acknowledge their rights, for justice.

Big Celebrations in Al Adhamiyah

I just had many flash-backs of the old days when I was there, like many I was seeing on television celebrating today the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Mohammed. Sometimes I used to go with a group of friends, another time / another year I used to go with the male cousins, another time on another year I used to take the whole family and we meet with other relatives and friends there. Women, old and young carrying lighten candles, which became a ritual on that day for many to do. Some parents used to buy new clothes for their children, like it was Eid ul-Fitr or Eid al-Adha.

I love the look on people faces then; it used to be joy for some, obedience for others, happiness was the most obvious look. It used to be the moment when people gather from different areas and neighborhood of Baghdad to Al Adhamiyah.

Today the authorities closed the bridge linking Al Adhamiyah and Al Kadhmiyah from cars crossing through between the two neighborhoods. However, pedestrians was included and many from different ages were seen crossing and approaching the site of the celebrations.

The only difference from the old days is that today were a number of passing military barrages in between the thousands of people, and the presence of heavy security. I am delighted to see old and new Iraq comes as one in my eyes and my mind.

Most, if not all of the people interviewed by Iraqi TV stations expressed their relief because of the security. Most of the people, if not all were emphasizing on reconciliation among all Iraqis and that Iraq return to the old days when no different between Shi’a and Sunni or any other ethnic or religious group. I loved the fireworks shot by people to the bright sky, loved the young and old reading poems expressing a feeling of joy on that day.

Al Adhamiyah is bright again, not with big lights surrounding Abu Hanifa mosque and the surrounding, but the brightness and the beauty came from the people celebrating on this blessed day.

Congratulations to all Muslim everywhere and Congratulations to all Iraqis