Tasting the sweeter side of freedom last night, Iraqis watched an “Arab Idol” musical competition most of them never would have seen under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
For Arabs throughout the region, the competition was held in Lebanon. The winner was Shadha Hassoun, a 25-year-old singer with a Moroccan mother and an Iraqi father.
The Iraqis had decided she was theirs alone.
Wearing a turquoise evening dress, Shadha Hassoun, wrapped herself with the white, red and black flag of Iraq and broke into tears as fans swarmed the stage in Beirut, Lebanon, where the contest was held and broadcast live throughout the Middle East.
“Her triumph will show the world that Iraqis will still sing despite their wounds,” Israa Tariq, a homemaker from Baghdad’s al-Ghadeer neighborhood, said before Friday’s final episode….
Dubbed the “Daughter of Mesopotamia” by fans, Hassoun has for weeks served as a pleasant distraction for a people in Year 5 of a war that harvests scores of Iraqi lives each day.
With a nighttime curfew in force and the streets too dangerous after sundown, Iraqis have been finding refuge in the wide variety of TV channels provided by satellite dishes, banned under Saddam Hussein but now sprouting on nearly every rooftop.
‘Star Academy.’ The “Arab Idol” show actually is called “Star Academy.” Hassoun outperformed finalists from Egypt and Tunisia. Arabs throughout the Middle East voted by e-mail and text messages.
Some Iraqis celebrated Hassoun’s success by pointing out how much more peaceful their nation would be if everyone simply focused on the activities that unite them. Still others scoffed at the show as trivial.
The Iraqis didn’t all agree. That’s freedom.