Free Souad Abdullah!

In my previous life in the NYC theater and opera scene, I’ve had lots of friends who were struggling actors, trying desperately to make a living or even spare change following their muses. I don’t think, however, that any of them had to deal with anything quite likethese performers, in newly liberated Baghdad:
Rana Shakir, a 26-year-old actress at the Nasir, was shot and killed on June 7. The shooting, reported in the local news media, was carried out by a close relative who had married a militant Islamist and had become convinced that Ms. Shakir’s career was sinful, said Mace Gomar, another actress who knew Ms. Shakir well. Ms. Shakir’s family is still too upset to discuss the incident, fellow actors said, declining to put a reporter in touch with them.
Most actors say they do not consider the Islamic groups a serious threat. But some, particularly those who performed in the so-called popular cabaret-style theater, are more worried.
Souad Abdullah, for instance, was once an icon of Iraqi pop culture, a flamboyant diva and soap opera star. Nowadays she sits at home in the Salhiya district of Baghdad, paralyzed by fear. Dark roots are showing in her famous bleached-blond hair, and she has taken to wearing a veil. “I am very afraid of these Islamists, that they will kill me,” she said, brushing tears from her heavily made-up face with a handkerchief. “They do not approve of my art. I cannot go out.”

Nobody ever said being an artist was easy.

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