Iraq’s leaders ‘old, bitter, 50-plus males,’ says singer ahead of Arab women artists festival

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Iraqi-Egyptian Nadin Al-Khalidi, a founder member of the Tarabband group, with the rest of her band. (Supplied)
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Tarabband’s lead vocalist and lyricist Nadin Al-Khalidi. (Supplied)
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Tarabband’s lead vocalist and lyricist Nadin Al-Khalidi. (Supplied)
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Iraqi-Egyptian Nadin Al-Khalidi, a founder member of the Tarabband group, with the rest of her band. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 March 2020

Iraq’s leaders ‘old, bitter, 50-plus males,’ says singer ahead of Arab women artists festival

  • “I hope to see young Iraqi men and women finally claiming their right to lead society with their ideas, dreams, ambition and talents,” Al-Khalidi told Arab News
  • The singer said that she felt honored to be part of the AWAN festival, which highlights talented female artists from the Arab world

LONDON: An Iraqi singer, who fled her native country for Sweden, has used a London festival performance to condemn Iraq’s leadership, describing its political elite as “old, bitter, 50-plus males with extremely dusty beliefs.”
Iraqi-Egyptian Nadin Al-Khalidi, a founder member of the Tarabband group, accused Baghdad politicians of squandering Iraq’s potential, saying her dream is to “see my homeland blooming again.”
The singer said that she is hoping for a “miraculous turning point” in Iraq.
“I hope to see young Iraqi men and women finally claiming their right to lead society with their ideas, dreams, ambition and talents,” Al-Khalidi told Arab News.
“I would love to see young women and men with their liberal, free, honest, transparent and non-scary visions sailing this ship forward without a bloodbath,” she said.
“There should be no more old, bitter, 50-plus males sitting in their chairs with extremely dusty beliefs, ideas and visions about how to rule the country.”
Al-Khalidi was speaking before taking the stage with her band at the Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) festival on Saturday ahead of International Women’s Day.
Formed in Malmo, Sweden, in 2008, Tarabband is a six-member group founded by Al-Khalidi and Swede Gabriel Hermansson, who began as a duo playing Arabic, Persian, Spanish and Italian music.
Al-Khalidi, who grew up in Iraq and Egypt, and sought refuge in Sweden with her sister in 2001, is the band’s lead vocalist and lyricist, and plays the Algerian mandole and Turkish saz, both stringed instruments.
Politics, identity, love, peace and cultural tolerance are common themes in her songs.


The singer said that she felt honored to be part of the AWAN festival, which highlights talented female artists from the Arab world.
“It’s an honor to represent Arab women, and to inspire and be inspired by our audience in London. We look forward to playing in the UK more often,” she said. “I hope to bring music, joy and a deep connection with the audience.”
Al-Khalidi told Arab News that even the band’s name is cross-cultural, and is formed of the Arabic word “tarab,” which means the rapture caused by music, and the English word “band.”
The singer said that the idea for the name came while she was eating at an Arab restaurant and listening to legendary Lebanese singer Fairuz.
A waiter made a remark about the song being “real tarab” and suddenly she thought of calling the duo “Tarabband.”
She said that at a time of growing far-right sentiment against refugees in Europe, “singing is a symbolic way of inspiring and empowering other people.”
“Tarabband’s audience in Sweden is made up mainly of Swedes, so I am creating a cultural bridge here, a free zone where people with different cultural, political and religious backgrounds can meet for 60-90 minutes and discover that we all have a lot in common.”
Al-Khalidi said that her work with refugees in her adopted home helps her cope with the guilt she feels for “not actively making a difference” in Iraq.
“When you look at the young men and women, and even the elderly, who are protesting in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, the only thing they are saying is that they want to have a decent life, and fair wages, working hours and opportunities.
“There is a lot of money in Iraq and lots of potential — it’s horrible to see young men and women who have an education that doesn’t even secure them bread or a meal in their daily lives.”

 

 


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”