- Title: TURKEY: Iraqi Heavy Metal Band seek refuge in Turkey
- Date: 13th December 2007
- Summary: (MER1)ISTANBUL, TURKEY (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BAND PERFORMING AT BENEFIT CONCERT AT ROCK BAR IN ISTANBUL
- Embargoed: 28th December 2007 12:00
- Location: Turkey
- Country: Turkey
- Topics: International Relations,Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVA3C9MNJJ9L2YQI8L2FEVHJ8YV8
- Story Text: Iraqi rock group Acrassicauda, who claim to be Baghdad's only heavy metal band, hope to gain refugee status in Turkey, having fled from their war-torn homeland.
The group have been on the run from the violence in Iraq for just over a year since first escaping to Damascus. Unable to remain in Syria, where authorities have imposed restrictions on allowing Iraqis into the country, the group moved on to Istanbul in October, taking advantage of Turkey's willingness to offer tourist visas to Iraqis.
With their visas now expired, the band have applied to the U.N. refugee office for refugee status.
The cultural similarities between Iraq and Turkey have helped the band settle in to their new home. "We couldn't go to Iraq because the situation in Iraq is not safe now," says drummer Marwan Reyad.
"We had to find another country. Our only option, and what we wanted most to do, was to come to Turkey."
Musically, Acrassicauda suffered as the security situation deteriorated in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Before the war, the band had regularly been able to practice for more than 12 hours at a time, but as it became increasingly difficult to move around freely in Baghdad, the group struggled to rehearse. Then in 2005 the band's studio was bombed.
"There was no security nor stability, and that definitely affected us as individuals and as artists and musicians, be it as traditional musicians or heavy metal musicians," remembers Reyad, at 23 the youngest member of the band.
"This led to a difficulty in being able to meet to rehearse, we couldn't move about, we relocated several times around Baghdad. We had trouble meeting and rehearsing, so rehearsing time decreased, and we couldn't really practice together."
The band were then forced to sell their instruments in Syria to help pay for their journeys to Turkey.
But times are looking up for the four members of the band. Now Turkish musicians have lent them a fully-equipped studio, and the refugee rockers are finally making music again.
On November 20, Acrassicauda, named after a type of black scorpion that lives in the Iraqi desert, performed at a concert organised by Turkish musicians to support their cause.
The band hope that the concert will be the first of many and are hopeful of their chances of being able to stay in Turkey.
"We don't know if they'll accept us as refugees here, we really don't know," says lead guitarist Tony Aziz.
"We hope people here will help us with this so we can stay here, because this country accepts different types and likes to do so, and I think people here like us and we like them."
Despite their warm welcome in Turkey the band remain hopeful of one day returning to their families in Iraq.
"We hope the situation will improve and that we'll be able to go back there," says Aziz.
"We have our fans there, our families, everything we have is there. But this is not up to me, it's up to God, and groups I have no knowledge of."
The band's profile is soon to receive a further boost.
"Heavy Metal in Baghdad", a film documenting their journey since forming in 2001, was screened at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. The documentary, made by Canadians Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi and backed by Spike Lee, is due for release early next year.
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