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Pouring the oil of music over a bombed Baghdad neighbourhood


Karim Wasfi playing his cello after the car bombing in Baghdad’s Mansour district


On the last Monday in April 2015, three car bombs ripped through busy Baghdad neighbourhoods. The deadliest of them killed at least 10 and injured 27 others and shattered shops and vehicles in the upscale Mansour district.

Iraqi cellist Karim Wasfi defied the terrorists ‘ message of hatred and death. He came with his own message, of love and of the ordinary grace of daily life. He carried his cello into the rubble-strewn street, sat on a chair, and began to play. With that act, the former conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra poured the oil of his music over the rough seas of a traumatized city.

This was not the first time Karim Wasfi had used his talents in service of peace. Years earlier he formed Peace Through Arts (the Karim Wasfi Center for Music and Creativity). Within that academy students whose lives have been damaged by the ongoing conflict among Sunni, Shiite and Christian Iraqis learn music and etiquette in after-school programs. Leaving behind sectarian prejudices, they learn how to see beyond their differences and learn, talk, and perform with each other.

Barry Malone interviewed Karim Wasfi after he brought his music to the rubble of Mansour. The musician told the Al Jazeera reporter, “It was an action to try to equalise things, to reach the equilibrium between ugliness, insanity and grotesque, indecent acts of terror – to equalise it, or to overcome it, by acts of beauty, creativity and refinement.”

Karim Wasfi’s response to a horrifying act of violence is one we can all learn from. Responding to hatred with hatred has never led to peace or understanding. With his music, Wasfi reminds us that violence is not normal, rational behaviour. What is normal is going to work, playing with the children, preparing dinner and enjoying good music.



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