Well right now here in Melbourne, we’re having major bush fires. Some of the worst ever in fact. Frankly the response and generosity from the public is heart warming and overwhelming. The human suffering is unimaginable, but it’s even more saddening to think refugees suffer permanently. Usually from acts of war rather than god.
Acrassicauda are a band of four Iraqis in their twenties who have suffered such a plight. They were Iraq’s main if not only heavy metal band to have endured right through the war. A war which sent them from Baghdad, to Damascus in Syria, to Istanbul in Turkey and finally safe refuge in the good old USA. That’s a rough six years.
Their lives were documented in the movie Heavy Metal in Baghdad. Far from being just about metal music, this movie covered far more home truths about the madness and suffering of the Iraqi war than most docos of a political discourse. Moving from one place to another, they struggled to find a place where they could earn an honest living, let alone a venue for a gig. At one point they had to sell their instruments to pay the rent.
Given that only a few thousand Iraqis have benefited from refugee status in the US since the war began, it’s pretty miraculous. You’d like to think it was perhaps the magic of Obama, but the arrangements must’ve started while Bush was still in office! Frankly it’s reassuring to see that people aren’t forgotten right now.
Now the boys are in New Jersey. They can grow their hair as long as they want, listen to whatever music they like and lose the Islamic garb. As if that wasn’t enough, they managed to get backstage at a Metallica gig. Now it’s not often you see a war veteran metal head light up like a Christmas tree. But when James Hetfield walks in unannounced, gives them one of his guitars and signs it with ‘Welcome to America’ words can’t describe the reaction. Hetfield had a pretty big arsed smile on his face too. It’s just brilliant stuff to watch.
While my heart goes out to the victims of the local bush fires, their loss and the tough life decisions they’re making now, refugees are a constant. Acrassicauda have suffered irreconcilably for the best part of a decade and yet they’re truly lucky. You only have to see the movie to see what they’ve been through to survive, let alone to play their music.
I saw Heavy Metal in Baghdad a few months ago, and strongly urge you to do the same. The last I checked on the band, they were stuck in Turkey penniless broke. Let’s hope that America works out for them. And when it comes to acts of god, don’t just make the big conspicuous donation now. Keep it coming and make sure other burnt Aussies, and indeed forsaken refugees get their lives back.
P.S. One such charity is the United Nations High Council of Refugees (UNHCR). Reading this article, it looks like they’ve done at least something to help Acrassicauda in their plight. Which makes those monthly donations I’ve been making for several years quite worth while.