ISIS Burns Famous Syrian Musician’s Piano, Tells Him “Music Is Haram”
Three years of siege, famine and bombing of his Damascus refugee camp didn’t kill celebrated musician Aeham al-Ahmad, but something died inside him the day militants burned his beloved piano in front of his eyes. It was then that Ahmad, whose music had brought consolation, even a bit of joy, to Yarmouk camp’s beleaguered residents, decided to join thousands of others and seek refuge in Europe.
“They burned it in April, on my birthday. It was my most cherished possession,” Ahmad told AFP, which is following his odyssey online, step-by-step. “The piano wasn’t just an instrument. It was like the death of a friend.”
For 27-year-old Ahmad, whose songs of hope amid the rubble of Syria’s largest Palestinian camp became a social media sensation last year, “it was a very painful moment.”
Since Syria’s civil war struck Yarmouk in 2013, the once-thriving neighborhood saw its population dwindle from 150,000 Palestinians and Syrians to barely 18,000 people.
The camp was caught up in fighting among government forces, rebels, and extremists and suffered a devastating siege by the Syrian army. About 200 people died from malnutrition and a lack of medicines.
Ahmad became a symbol of hope, helping Yarmouk’s people – particularly its children – forget for a moment the brutal war raging around them with every note he played. “The days when I felt the most helpless were when I had money, but I could not get milk for my year-old baby Kinan, or when my older son Ahmad would ask me for a biscuit,” he said.
“It was the worst feeling.”
But after ISIS militants attacked the camp in April, Ahmad’s gentle, tentative ray of light was engulfed in flames. He was in a pickup truck, trying to move his piano to nearby Yalda, where his wife and two boys were living, when he was stopped at a militant checkpoint.
“Don’t you know that music is haram [forbidden by Islam],” a gunman asked, before torching his beloved instrument.