Iraqi rapper gives angry youth in city of Basra music outlet

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He says his generation is fed up with the false piety of politicians and religious authorities who preach about faith and duty but have left Basra to fall apart. (AP)
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Ahmed Chayeb raps about anger and disillusionment in his hometown of Basra, which saw riots last summer over failing services and soaring unemployment. (AP)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Iraqi rapper gives angry youth in city of Basra music outlet

  • Basra fell under conservative rule after Shiite clerics and militias took over the city in the vacuum caused by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq
  • Amid the revolt, rap offered Basra’s youth an opportunity for lyrics blistering with criticism

BASRA, Iraq: A youth-led protest movement in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra, which saw riots last summer over failing services and soaring unemployment, has found an artistic outlet in the words and beats of homegrown rapper Ahmed Chayeb.
The 22-year-old rapper, also known as Mr. Guti, says his generation is fed up with the false piety of politicians and religious authorities who preach about faith and duty but have let Basra fall apart.
“We need to be critical of everything that’s not right,” Chayeb told The Associated Press in a recent interview in his home studio, where he recorded “This is Basra ,” lashing out at the powerful Shiite religious establishment.
Mr. Guti’s expertly produced music videos have drawn tens of thousands of YouTube viewers but his new-found fame has also brought danger: threats from hard-liners are common and two of the city’s protest organizers have been killed in recent attacks. Their killers remain at large.
Basra, long known around the Arabian Gulf for its drinking establishments and its maritime vibe, fell under conservative rule after Shiite clerics and militias took over the city in the vacuum caused by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Once renowned for its canals and markets, Basra’s waterways today are clogged with waste, and its drinking water is filthy. The city erupted in violent unrest last summer that led to demonstrators burning down government and party-affiliated buildings.
Amid the revolt, rap offered Basra’s youth — tired of joblessness and failed services — an opportunity for lyrics blistering with criticism.
In “This is Basra,” Chayeb raps against the backdrop of a march around the city’s burning municipal building during last summer’s protests, asking why his generation has been called on to fight a war for leaders who cannot secure water for the city.
The conflict he refers to is the four-year war against the Daesh group that the US-backed Iraqi government forces ultimately won. Many young Shiites followed a call in June 2014 by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, for volunteers to fight against IS. Thousands died in that fight.
“We were martyred for this war, I fell, and the authority has forgotten my loyalty,” he raps.
“You’re not associated with Hussein,” he goes on, invoking the revered Shiite imam and grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who died in the 7th century Battle of Karbala, and whose example Iraq’s leaders have asked their youth to follow.
Chayeb, mindful of the dangers, is circumspect about where and when he performs. He says most of his concerts are arranged through private contacts; he stopped recording at a professional studio in 2016. He said he’s received death threats that have grown more intimidating in recent months.
But he won’t stop rapping.
“If we stay afraid, nothing will change,” he said.
As a teenager, Chayeb watched US and British rappers on YouTube, then got together with friends to perform his own rhymes. He also followed a string of Arab rappers and sees Klash, from the Saudi city of Jeddah, as one of his greatest influences.
“My aim is to explain what is happening to Basra because of the people who are corrupt,” he said, adding that rap is a way “to release my pain.”
Corrupt politicians and clerics should watch out, he says.
“Beware of Basra,” he raps. “We won’t be quiet until our demands are met.”


Jordan gets its first female boots on Everest summit

Updated 26 May 2019
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Jordan gets its first female boots on Everest summit

  • Dubai-based mountaineer Dolores Shelleh also became first Arab woman to scale the world’s highest mountain from its northern side
  • Shelleh previously summited Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world, as well as Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus, and Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro

DUBAI: Dubai-based mountaineer Dolores Shelleh became the first Jordanian woman to scale mount Everest this week, as well as being the first Arab woman to scale the world’s highest mountain from its northern side.

“By scaling Mt. Everest from the North Col, I intended to highlight the message of embracing more sustainable practices and to promote the use of renewable energy as well as reinforce the need to follow healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature,” Shelleh said.

“The challenge I undertook was particularly arduous as the North Col of Mt. Everest route called for more technical climbing and the weather conditions were windier and chillier. With the support and blessings of my family, friends and my co-residents in The Sustainable City, I was able to accomplish the task,” she added.

Shelleh’s climb was sponsored by The Sustainable City, the Middle East’s first fully operational sustainable community, found in the UAE.

Shelleh previously summited Mount Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world, as well as Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus, and Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.