Famous Iraqi musician returns to Baghdad for peace concert

21 Sep 2012

More than 2,000 people from every corner of Iraq came to Baghdad last week to hear world-famous Iraqi musician Nasseer Shamma mark International Day of Peace at a concert jointly organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.

Shamma, who plays the Oud - a pear-shaped string instrument popular in the Middle East - was chosen to perform at this symbolic event not only because of his international prowess, but also because he is a humanitarian. “Shamma is widely known and respected as a man of compassion who has for years been a dedicated advocate to peace and putting an end to violence and turbulence in Iraq,” said Peter Batchelor, UNDP Country Director in Iraq.

“There are no words to describe this evening. It took us to another world,” said a member of the Youth Development Organisation in Iraq, one of UNDP’s partners. “This special event has pumped life back in our hearts after all the sadness and pain we've been through.”

The International Day of Peace - celebrated every year on 21 September – is an opportunity to draw attention to the severe impact that on-going violence and conflict has had on Iraqi civilians and to remember those who lost their lives. For UNDP and other United Nations agencies, it is also a chance to discuss what further can be done to prevent and reduce the incidence of violence in Iraq.

“Tonight’s concert sent a message of memories, love and hope for a better future and peace in Iraq,” remarked Shamma following his performance, his first in more than 20 years. “This concert paid tribute to those who lost their lives during the conflicts that Iraq has endured over the past 30 years, including the victims of the 2003 attack against the United Nations,” he added.

According to some estimates more than 100,000 civilians died in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. In 2012 alone, nearly 3,000 civilians lost their lives. While security has markedly improved since 2009, significant levels of violence continue to challenge the Government of Iraq's efforts to provide basic levels of safety and security for its citizens.

Since 1976, UNDP has worked to support the Government and people of Iraq in the areas of democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, and energy and environment. The status and well-being of youth plays a role in shaping UNDP’s programmes in Iraq as it is important that Iraqi youth –many of whom have only experienced dictatorship, conflict and violence in the last few decades - regain faith in their country’s institutions.

“Youth must be involved in the shaping of their own futures. Including young people in policies, programmes and decision-making processes will benefit Iraq's future," said Batchelor.

UNDP Iraq is currently finalizing its Iraq National Human Development Report which has a thematic focus on youth, a topic which is highly relevant in the context of current events in the Arab Region. The report - due to be out at the end of 2012 - will outline tools to help enable Iraq’s youth to realize their potential and contribute to Iraq’s socio-economic growth in the future.