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Iraqi Kids Find Refuge in Music

  • Faiza Elmasry

All too often, in Iraq and many other places in the world, children grow up to the sound of explosions and sirens. But in a classroom in Basra, a different sound surrounds them — music.

"Children's Orchestra" is the brainchild of Adnan Sahi, head of the music department at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Basra. The motto of this summer program is “Culture fights backwardness and extremism.”

“Human behavior in general, and children’s, is a response to a stimulus- a reflection of their environment,” Sahi says. “What we’re trying do is keep the Iraqi child from the negative environmental effects caused by the surrounding violent tensions. We try to keep our children away from the language of violence, the language of exclusion.”

This is his work of art. He envisions the "Children's Orchestra" as a safe haven for these children. Kids as young as five can join the program to learn a set of skills they would never pick up, if they were left to play in the streets.

Enrollment in this music school is free, but students had to buy their own instruments.

Ridha Falah says playing instruments is a unique experience for him. "I haven't seen a piano before, only on TV,” he says, “but now we are playing with one in addition to the guitar and violin, so it's way better than playing with toy guns and that sort of stuff."

Instructors volunteer to work with kids because they share Sahi's belief that music can shield children from the violence around them and provide them with a fun and positive summer experience before they go back to school.

Basra's "Children's Orchestra" is not the first attempt to help kids heal and thrive through arts.Other projects included an art program in an Iraqi orphanage in Bagdad, and a ballet school in Arbeel.

Different approaches to the same end; using art to change Iraqi children’s lives, so they can change their world.

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