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Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma launches fund-raising campaign


Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma launches fund-raising campaign

Arab Iraqi oud player Naseer Shamma launches fund-raising campaign for refugees in Syria and Jordan.
18 December 2007 Also available in:
Arab Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma talks to a refugee in Damascus.

DAMASCUS, Syria, December 18 (UNHCR) - Popular Arab Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma on Tuesday launched a fund-raising campaign that he hopes will raise millions of dollars to help Iraqi refugees in major host countries such as Syria and Jordan.

"I did not know before today that there are many layers [of Iraqi refugees] under the poverty line. UNHCR has done its share but it is time now for the Arab people to do their share and support Iraqi refugees," the virtuoso oud player told a press conference on the final day of his three-day visit to Syria.

Shamma, who met some of the estimated 1.4 million Iraqi refugees in Syria during his visit, said the fund-raiser would include a live telethon on several Arabic broadcasting channels and an advertising campaign calling on people to donate money through special bank accounts.

The campaign will feature Arab artists and public figures and will be supervised by the Cairo-based League of Arab States. Shamma approached the League for help after watching a documentary on Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries.

"Ever since I saw this film, I have not been able to sleep well knowing that many Iraqi families are facing the harsh winter cold, away from home, unable to afford the cost of feeding their children and struggling to make ends need," the musician said.

During his visit here, a UNHCR camera crew followed Shamma as he visited a refugee registration centre in Damascus and talked with Iraqi families about their appalling suffering and courage. Some had fled kidnapping and murder attempts and were now struggling to stay alive and recover some hope for the future.

Everywhere he went, Shamma was recognized by his compatriots, many of whom asked him to help solve their myriad problems. "I wish I had a magic wand that can ease the suffering of my people and help all Iraqis," Shamma said, adding: "The numbers are staggering and it will take the effort of the whole Arab people and the international community to help alleviate the suffering of Iraqis and to make them feel that they are not alone."

On the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid Al Adha, Shamma said he hoped that Arabs around the region would put their hands together to help millions of families displaced by the conflict in Iraq. "Until the time that Iraqis can go back to Iraq in safety and dignity, I would like us all to be able to support education and health so that we do not end up with a generation of Iraqis who have missed out on education."

There are more than 2.4 million Iraqis displaced inside their own country, while over 2.2 million are refugees in other countries.

By Abeer Etefa in Damascus, Syria