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Hugh in Iraq

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Eddie Mair | 12:02 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

On Broadcasting House on Sunday Hugh escaped the sandbags, razor wire and blast walls that surround the BBC's bureau in Baghdad and relaxes to the sounds of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, as they prepare for a concert:


"Annie Melconian, leader of the orchestra - an Armenian Iraqi from Baghdad


The conductor is Paul MacAlindin from Scotland - he's one of twelve foreign tutors who coached the musicians for their concert.


Frand 'Trumpeter' Nashat, as he signs his emails. He's 16. I fist met him - at the Baghdad School of Music and Dance - when he was a young boy. Virtually a prisoner in his Baghdad home during the bad years, he told me then that he dreamed of being able to ride a bicycle outside - and of being able to play football. Now he says he plays 'a lot of football.' But he has outgrown his bicycle.


And that (second from left) is Frand's sister, Rania. She also took a turn at conducting, and her brother played and took pictures:



And here are some other members of the orchestra - who had never met before. And because it was too dangerous to travel to Baghdad for auditions, they auditioned by uploading video to YouTube:






And as a 'warm up' the night before, the orchestra gave a concert in an Erbil garden. Nice cool evening? Er, no. At 10pm it was 46 deg centigrade (110 F)


And here they are in the Shaheed Saad Abdullah concert hall in Erbil. They received a standing ovation:


The UK flag is there alongside the flags of Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan because the concert was part-funded by the British Council. The UK ambassador Dr. John Jenkins was there. He gave me an interview in fluent Arabic. I even managed one question in Arabic, which must have made sense because he answered it!"


  • 1. At 1:23pm on 16 Aug 2010, Phil Burt wrote:

    Uplifting report, Hugh. It brightened my morning.


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  • 2. At 1:34pm on 16 Aug 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Hugh, I remember Frand - You posted about him on the Blog, was it three years ago? How lovely to meet him again, and in such a positive way.

    It is indeed uplifting to have these 'positive' views from Iraq (though I fear there is still much going on that is very negative). Thank you, yet again, for sharing this, and my very best wishes to the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.*

    Sah-e-shoma kam na Shoddid (A farsi blessing taught to me by Hugh Sykes)

    [*a perfect illustration of how the British Council can be a force for good]

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  • 3. At 5:14pm on 16 Aug 2010, weecrusty wrote:

    I don't really understand the fuss about mixed wards in hospitals. I've been an in-patient a few times, in single-sex wards, but since visitors are often around from around 12 noon to 8pm there are often people of the opposite sex and children in the ward when one is having intimate nursing attendance or one has to cross the ward to go to the toilet.

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  • 4. At 5:32pm on 16 Aug 2010, Silveradical wrote:

    Tony Blair's sudden conversion to good works would carry more conviction if he were donating several million pounds to the many thousands of Iraqi families whose life he has ruined, and not just to wounded British servicemen.

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  • 5. At 5:59pm on 16 Aug 2010, Peter Thomas wrote:

    The BBC is apparently working overtime (as on the Sunday progrma yesterday) to support the mosque on Ground Zero - on the site of a building that was actually struck by the undercarriage of one of the downed planes. As a historian, Sharma must be aware of Islamic buildings erected to assert domination - not least the Dome of the Rock on the site of the former Jewish Temple. All over Egypt, the mosques have been built higher than adjacent Coptic churches and not so long ago, an attempt was made to do the same thing in Nazareth.
    The Islamic strategy to take over the USA, Europe and the UK, has been identified and documented. In France, the implementation is well advanced, and in the UK, the Muslim immigrant birth rate is already distorting our demographics. The BBC should take no part in the Muslim strategy to paint themselves as a disadvantaged minority, which they will continue to do until they have gained significant political power while liberal politicians stand and watch - in denial of their strategy. The USA constitution was certainly not drafted with foreknowledge of the threat of immigrants who are planning to impose their mediaeval religous precepts on the nation.

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  • 6. At 6:03pm on 16 Aug 2010, normanmugabe wrote:

    On the world service last night, a longer version was broadcast. Just lovely. I wish them all well. And Hugh too.

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  • 7. At 6:54pm on 16 Aug 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Um, I see there are some posters who are confusing this thread with the PM Glass Box ...

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  • 8. At 11:04pm on 16 Aug 2010, jonnie wrote:

    Big Sister (above) I'm hardly surprised though?

    IMHO there should be somewhere to post on the programme as it's being transmitted live.. as is the case for most live programmes these days.

    Ive lost most of the logic on this blog.

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  • 9. At 3:28pm on 17 Aug 2010, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Big Sister, another question from a long-term exile in the outer darkness: is it usual these days for there to be a quick burst of not-too-cogent Islamophobic comment if anything to do with Palestine is mentioned, or is this a one-off?

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  • 10. At 3:40pm on 17 Aug 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    C'mon, Chris - PUSH!

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  • 11. At 4:12pm on 17 Aug 2010, Big Sister wrote:

    Chris, both posters are new to me.

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  • 12. At 07:14am on 18 Aug 2010, Peter wrote:

    Could someone tell Hugh how much his work is appreciated? For my money he should win every award for foreign affairs reporting going.

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