Grace Note: Iraq Music Store Reopens
“My goal is to serve the community, to serve the culture, to support the youth.”
On a small side street in the town of Teleskof, Iraq, sits a music shop that is barely more than 100 square feet. Still, owner Samir* makes the most of the space with musical instruments hanging from the walls, a desk in the corner and shelves filled with supplies. Samir sees music as a soothing balm to help people relax and feel happy.
“When you hear music it enters your soul,” Samir says. “People who are engaged in music are simple people. They look at the situation with happiness and more comfort.”
The people of Teleskof can certainly use some comfort. More than three years ago ISIS took over the predominantly Christian town, forcing residents to flee. People started returning in the fall of 2017. The damage they found when they returned was extensive.
“I found my home completely empty,” Samir recalls. “Even the electrical wiring was gone. My car had been left behind. When I came back, everything was taken from it. Tires, gears, everything.”
Many Iraqis returning home are starting from zero. Displaced for years, they have few resources to help them replace what was lost and begin again.
Catholic Relief Services and its partner Caritas Iraq, with funding from the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance, provide cash grants so people can rebuild their businesses.
“The cash helps people replace key business assets, which is different depending on their type of business,” Hani El-Mahdi, CRS country representative in Iraq, says. “It’s important to give them that flexibility.”
Samir used the grant money to restart his music shop. He bought instruments, since after returning all he had was his oud, a traditional stringed instrument. He is selling and renting instruments, giving lessons to young people, and even making some instruments of his own to sell.
Restarting a business in a post-conflict area presents unique challenges, so CRS and Caritas provide coaching to the business owners to help them adapt their business to the new context. The coaches are also recent returnees.
“You find people who don’t have the capacity to start their work again. They aren’t able to rebuild their businesses,” one of the project coaches explains. “I think the area really needed this project.”
In Teleskof, the economy is still slowly recovering. For Samir, the community doesn’t have much to pay him right now, but he is building his business steadily, as one of the only music shops in the Ninewa Plains.
Samir sees his livelihood as having a larger purpose than profit alone.
“My goal is to serve the community, to serve the culture, to support the youth,” he says. Those are his goals. His dream is for a rebuilt Iraq, with safety and peace for its people. “To be honest, I had lost hope. Now that we’ve had support, now I feel like I have hope again.”
*Name changed to protect privacy and confidentiality.