Iraqi violinist forced to flee Mosul returns to play anti-IS concert

A violinist who was forced to flee Mosul by Islamic State has returned to the city to play a public concert in protest against the militants.

Explosions and gunfire could be heard from the west of the city, where US backed forces are still fighting IS, as Iraqi musician Ameed Mukdad played.

Mr Mukdad, 28, had been playing and composing scores in secret after the terror group, also known as Daesh, banned music.

He was forced to flee to Baghdad after fighters raided his home and confiscated his instruments, saying his music was a violation of their interpretation of Islam.

But after advertising his concert on social media, he returned to the city to perform.

“This is a place for all, not just one sect. Daesh represents no religion but is an ideology that suppresses freedom,” he said.

“Everything about Daesh is wrong.”

Entertainment, including music, was banned in Mosul under IS rule, but Mr Mukdad continued to play at home alone and in a small circle of fellow musicians.

Fellow musician Hakam Anas said he stopped performing because he was “too afraid”, but his friend “kept going”.

“We tried persuading him that he could get easily killed, but he kept playing,” he said.

Life is slowly returning to normal in the city six months after the eastern part was liberated from Islamic State.

Satellite dishes – taken down after threats of lashings by IS – have been reappearing on rooftops in the area.

Mr Mukdad’s concert took place in the ruins of a site of significance to both Christians and Muslims, known as the Tomb of Jonas, or the Mosque of the Prophet Younis.

The musician said he chose the location to symbolise unity.

“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,” he said.

“Everyone who opposes music is ugly.”

Mr Mukdad was initially refused access to the venue when a rocket was heard nearby.

Soldiers guarding the site said they could not guarantee the public’s safety, but later changed their minds.

Tahany Saleh, who was forced to give up university studies by IS because she was a woman, was among about 20 people in the audience.

“The performance was like a dream,” she said. “I wanted to come to give a message that war has not stopped life in Mosul.

“You can see all this damage but still we still want to be happy, we want to listen music.”

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Iraq

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