Our Journey to Smile

The day the music died Laith Mushtaq Al Jazeera : the priceless price of violence?‎

the day the music died

Rashid Wali, an Iraqi working for Al Jazeera, was killed in Kerbala five years ago

Is the death of music and the death of friends the priceless price of violence?

Can such music and friendship ever be replaced once lost?

How many ‘songs’ perish violently every day?

Please read Laith’s full article at


Al Jazeera’s Laith Mushtaq was one of the few unembedded cameramen working in Iraq during some of the fiercest clashes between American forces and anti-invasion fighters.

In the early hours of May 21, 2004, both Laith and his assistant Rashid Wali were filming during intense fighting in the Shia pilgrimage city off Karbala.

I want to introduce you to my friend Rashid. Rashid Wali. Officially, he had been hired as a driver, but he soon did pretty much everything.

We had lots of CDs in the car and sometimes we would sing along. Most of the time, we listened to southern Iraqi music. Lots of sad love songs. Rashid was from southern Iraq and southern Iraqis are specialists for sad love songs

A layer of sadness covered the country; people were grieving, smoke rose everywhere, cars and tanks lay burned on the side of the road.

So Rashid played the kind of music that went with it. He chose the soundtrack of the war.

When I started working for Al Jazeera, I was nervous, but he put his hand on my shoulder and said: “I know you can do it. I trust you.”

I turned my face to his face and I suddenly felt this power inside me because, for the first time, I felt that somebody believed in me as a cameraman.

…………………………..Then I screamed: “Go down. Hide.”

He said: “No, I will never leave you alone.” And he put his hand on my shoulder.

The next moment, I saw bullets flying towards us. You can see bullets because they glow in the dark.

A second later, the wall falls down. I fall, try to hold the camera and see Rashid falling as well. I couldn’t move.

Then I saw that three bullets had hit his head.

There was a river of blood. I screamed, because all the others were downstairs. I screamed: “Rashid is killed.”

……….So, in his own car, I took his body back to Baghdad. I think it was the longest drive of my life. I remembered every single time we had travelled together. I heard him say: “Make the AC high, make the AC low, change the CD.”

But on that day, there was no CD to change. That day, I stopped listening to southern Iraqi love songs.


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