Stories Of Wartime, Transformed Through Music

Rahim Alhaj is a composer and musician from Baghdad. He was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured for speaking out under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Alhaj fled his native country in 1991 — first going to Jordan, then Syria. He says that he heard that the Iraqi secret police intended to murder him abroad. So finally, in 2000, he came to the United States as a refugee, where he was resettled in New Mexico. (It wasn’t an easy transition: As a new arrival, he tried to decline a job at a local McDonald’s, saying that his music wasn’t really right for playing in restaurants.)

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