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“Music is the most important thing in life”

Mon 10 February 2020


On Monday 3 February, we hosted a workshop performance by 15 Yazidi women, many of whom are former prisoners of ISIS.

The trip, funded by the British Council, was organised by the AMAR Foundation. The charity provides emergency aid, education and healthcare in the Middle East and was founded by Baroness (Emma) Nicholson of Winterbourne, AMAR’s Chair and Founder, and the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq.

Since 2014 Islamic State fighters have targeted Yazidi communities with devastating consequences and the majority of survivors now live in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in Northern Iraq.  The genocide carried out by ISIS has almost destroyed the Yazidi heritage. Through British Council funding, AMAR is reviving traditions and teaching the next generation about its ancient culture.

Led by Trinity Laban violin professor Michael Bochmann MBE, this project is helping rehabilitate young women through music. As Yazidi music is an oral tradition and not written down, Michael has also led a recording project to ensure the music is preserved. These have been archived at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

At the performance, one of the young women explained –

“Music is the most important thing in life.”

Michael Bochmann commented –

“There’s an incredible community feeling. The project is transforming their lives, allowing them to move on from this horrific time in  history they’ve been through, to be part of their community again.”

The performance formed part of a recent visit to Britain, during which the group met with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and sang at Westminster Abbey.

Images courtesy of Amar Foundation