Good news from Iraq

Iraqi girl wins Arab Pop Idol

Sunni and Shia will soon be united in their hatred for the deluge of reality TV shows that have shown the Western world swamped with. Poor bastards. But for now all is good:

“She is doing all the things that all the Iraqi girls cannot do now: singing, dancing, being free. She is representing freedom.”

An anchor on Iraq’s al-Sharqiya channel

BAGHDAD, Iraq | By early Friday night, families were hunkered around their televisions, nervously awaiting the election results that would come hours later.

In the northern Iraqi town of Irbil, thousands packed into a shopping mall courtyard and stood before a massive screen, shouting for the victory of their candidate: “Shada! Shada!”

The object of their obsession was Shada Hassoun, Iraq’s contestant on the fourth season of the Lebanese show “Star Academy,” the “American Idol” of the Arab world. She had made Friday’s finals, and a public vote, sent by cell phone, would decide her fate.

Iraqis everywhere were in a Shada frenzy last week — causing many to observe that, win or lose, Hassoun, 26, who professes to love jet-skiing and Antonio Banderas, had managed to engender a sense of national cohesion.

“Sunnis and Shiites will unite with your victory!” read one viewer’s text message. “You are the one who unites all of Iraq, from the North to the South, from the Tigris to the Euphrates!”

Hassoun might seem an unlikely ambassador for Iraq, because she has never been to the country. Born in Casablanca, Morocco, she lays claim to Iraqi nationality through her father, a native-born member of the Shimary tribe of southern Iraq.

No one knows for sure whether she is Sunni or Shiite, so both sects have claimed her.

But what really counted, fans said, is that the beautiful, Paris-educated Hassoun embraced bombed-out, struggling Iraq.

Iraq, in turn, embraced her.

“We heard she lived in Morocco and has never been in Iraq. And she loves her country so much. Imagine how great her love would be if she lived here!” said Ahmed Kadhiim, 32, a day laborer sipping a Diet Pepsi in a small market in central Baghdad on Friday.

Iraqis have been gripped by Hassoun’s travails on “Star Academy.” She bickered with other contestants, got poor reviews after forgetting her lyrics, and fretted constantly that her nose is too pointy. One time, she lay on a bed, crying that her countrymen were too busy and besieged by war to take the time to vote for her.

She garnered 54.8 percent of the global vote, which sent her into the finals and jubilant Iraqis into the streets.

Not everyone was obsessed.

“Of course not,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, when asked if the country’s top leader is a “Star Academy” watcher.

Dabbagh said that he had never seen the show either, but he conceded that an artist — especially one sending “a positive message for the people” — might generate popular support more easily than a politician.

[Just goes to show politicians are stuffy lot - be them in London or Baghdad! - Ed]

Some Iraqis offered other reasons for the Hassoun fervor: With violence a constant threat, there is little else to do but stay home and watch television. Hassoun’s spangly dresses and sensual dancing symbolize a freedom now unknown in Iraq.

By Friday evening, unofficial results showed Hassoun in the lead. Al-Sharqiya TV’s anchor implored Iraqis to cast their votes for the “daughter of Mesopotamia.”

“She is doing all the things that all the Iraqi girls cannot do now: singing, dancing, being free. She is representing freedom,” she said. “Vote for Shada and make Iraqis feel happiness again.”

The crowd in Irbil, broadcast on television, thrust their cell phones into the air.

By 11:30 p.m., the four finalists had sung and danced for the last time on the show. They stood in a line on the stage, Hassoun in a sparkly blue halter dress. The crowd was silent.

Finally, the results popped up on the screen: With 40 percent, Hassoun was the winner.

She clutched her chest. Gold confetti fell on her tear-streaked cheeks, and on the large Iraqi flag that she waved back and forth.

In Baghdad, the sound of celebratory gunfire rang out into the night.

Yee ha! Cool stuff. I may make light of this but it's things like this that unite the common man and woman. Fucking eh. Who'd have thought Pop Idol would be uniting Iraqi sects?

Original article from here

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