Drum Diplomacy Builds Peace in Iraq
"We Kurdish people in Iraq have suffered too much. We have a root in the history of the drum; religious, social, emotional and psychological roots. This program shows that drums are weapons of peace," according to Mr. Mohammed Tafiq, director of Kurdistan Save the Children.
As troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq, music is moving in. A program called Ashti Drum, which means "Peace Drum" in Kurdish, is generating great success in conflict resolution, leadership development, youth empowerment, and therapeutic rehabilitation through the simple use of the drum.
Since 2007, author and music therapist, Christine Stevens has been working in Iraq with an inspired American team to train Iraqis in the art of drum circle leadership. In the first music-based conflict resolution training in a war-zone, Stevens trained thirty-eight Iraqis from seven different governances across Iraq in leadership of the drumming programs. The pioneering program was the vision of Melinda Witter. According to one man, "I was amazed to see people from conflicted areas making music together."
This year, Stevens will return to Iraq in April with ethnomusicologist and drum maker Dr. Craig Woodson to expand Ashti Drum programs in Halabja, Darbandi Khan, Sulaymaniyah, and Koya. Stevens will offer women's empowerment drumming through the Kurdistan Women's Union. Creating the first music therapy program in Iraq, Stevens will also train and supervise therapists at the Children's Rehabilitation Center. Woodson will meet with Kurdish craft centers to develop the drum making industry for economic development. According to Stevens, "Music rebuilds the human soul. This is the greatest testimony to the healing power of music I've ever seen. We are establishing a model for global diplomacy through music."
This project is support by NAMM, REMO Drum Company, Humanity Unites Brilliance and private donors.