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Karim Wasfi became famous around the world because of misfortune. The renowned performer and conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra played cello at the scenes of suicide attacks in Baghdad in 2015. He was the man who made beautiful music among the wreckage of a great city.
Now, signs of stability are showing in Iraq slowly. The wall around the green zone, that fortified district set up after the U.S. invasion in 2003, is beginning to be dismantled. ISIS has been forced out of the cities, including its former declared capital of Mosul, and that city is where Wasfi is focusing his energy.
Wasfi practices what he calls "spontaneous compositions," which he uses as a form of resistance to radicalization.
"But it creates an energy field that recognizes connectivity, that recognizes self, and it empowers knowledge, empowers logic, freedom of thought, choice, and would definitely be an empowering, driving force behind resisting radicalization and intimidation and terror," Wasfi says.
Wasfi doesn't presume to know what music terrorists listen to — Gershwin, or Bach, or Brahms, or Faulkner, or Mozart, or Beethoven or whoever" — but he does see his work as making an impact for those trying to rebuild the city.
"Forcing their ideologies by the use of force, is a lost cause, is a short-term impact, because there will always be a stronger entity that would jeopardize that," Wasfi says. "The continuous impromptus of performing after car bombs, I believe that it is an empowering element of solidarity, and compassion, and sorrow and condolences for those whom we're missing due to terror, but also it empowers life and commitment to life."
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