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Resistance songs urge Iraqis to rise up against occupiers

FALLUJAH, Iraq—At the Sound of the Revolution music shop, lots of Arab pop stars look down from wall posters, but the hottest local one—resistance singer Sabah Hashim—needs no promotion.

Hashim is part of a new and growing group of Iraqi singers whose anti-Western lyrics are raw with hate. In one number in his latest collection, Hashim urges listeners to: "Carry your weapons and kick the heretic people out of your land. The people of Fallujah are like wolves when they attack the enemy."

Such sentiments are especially popular in cities like Fallujah, where resistance to U.S. troops has been heavy, and across the so-called Sunni Triangle, the arc of territory that thrived under Saddam Hussein's rule. Especially for Sunnis who now feel dispossessed and threatened by Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, the music expresses—and maybe nourishes—rejection of the nine-month U.S. occupation.

"When I hear this music, it provokes me to help the resistance," said Nudher Aboud, 36, a jobless father who bought "The Anger" recently at the Sound of Revolution.

The store, whose name dates from its opening shortly after the Iraqi Baath Socialist party came to power in 1969, sells about 75 copies a week of "The Anger," said Ehab Thaya, 20, whose family owns the store.

"This shows that people still love Saddam," said Thaya.

Across town at another music store, Noori Hashim, 30, also reports brisk sales, mostly to young men but occasionally to women.

He pulls out a video CD version of "The Anger," whose cover shows Hashim in an Arabic headdress.

He sings against a backdrop of provocative images: an F-16 firing at a target followed by huge, orange explosions; Iraq women mourning their dead sons; American soldiers arresting Iraqis. In one scene, a group of Iraqis celebrates around a destroyed U.S. tank.

Many resistance songs use heavily amped drums and guitars to generate a pulsating rhythm that sounds like modern Arab pop. Some is more religious. The music is rarely heard on local radio stations or in restaurants, but often played at weddings and other celebrations in the Sunni Triangle.

Many singers hail from Fallujah and Mosul—predominantly Sunni Muslim towns hostile towards the U.S. presence as well as frustrated over the lack of security, electricity and municipal services. In recent weeks, more American soldiers have been killed in Mosul than in any other town in Iraq.

"We will face death. We will never give up our land," sings Qassim al Sultan, a singer from Mosul. "We will remove America from the map."

Other singers praise Saddam, under whom Sunnis dominated politics, or of Sunni attempts to survive in an Iraq in which they are an embattled minority.

"Today, let America and London hear that we will carry on with Saddam and that all Iraqis love him," sings Bassim al Ali. "Saddam is our father ... We will be his sword against the enemy."

Other songs play to Arab nationalism, and call on Arabs throughout the Middle East to rally and expel the U.S.-led occupiers.

"Baghdad calls Arabs for militancy and martyrdom," sings Adnan Faisal. "From Mosul to Hillah, we are Arabs and we refuse to be insulted. We are ready for death."

Resistance songs tinged with piety put the singers and listeners on higher moral ground and broaden the message's appeal in a country increasingly influenced by clergy and political Islam.

"God is the greatest," sings Hashim. "We can no longer endure heretics in the Prophet's land."

It's unclear what influence this music is having on Iraqi resistance to western occupiers.

A senior corpsman at the Fallujah headquarters of the Iraqi Civil Defense Forces, a U.S.-trained Iraqi security group, said he thought there were two kinds of listeners.

"Some people who listen to them care more about the problems in their own lives, so they won't join the resistance," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he fears retaliation if it becomes widely known that he's working with Americans.

"For others, the cassettes provoke nationalist feelings against the Americans," he continued. "They're the ones who will fight."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-MUSIC


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