Iraq: Black Metal’s anti-religious message meets Islam
In July 2012 Kim Kelly from the Atlantic finally got in touch with somebody he had tried to reach for over a year: 28-year-old Anahita who is the voice behind the black metal solo project Janaza as well as its sister project Seeds of Iblis. Anahita is probably Iraq’s first female black metal singer – and possibly the only one. Understandably, Anahita keeps her full identity secret.
Janaza, meaning “funeral prayer” in Arabic, released “Burn the Pages of Quran”, a five track demo in 2010. Kelly describes the music as “raw, mid-tempo black metal, a lo-fi example of heavy metal’s most evil subgenre”. However, as the title of the demo indicates – this is about so much more. An anti-religious message is hardly shocking in Western countries these days, but in Iraq this music equals a death sentence.
When Anahita is asked what would happen to her and her compatriots if the religious authorities discovered their actions, she replies: “A simple answer. They would kill me, and kill all of my friends, by cutting off our heads.”
Anahita was raised in what she describes as an “open minded” Muslim home in Baghdad. Tragically her parents and younger brother were killed by a suicide bomb during the Iraq war in 2008. After this incident some of her collage friends were also hurt as a result of religiously motivated violence. She has lost her fate and there is no doubt about this when you take a closer look at the lyrics and titles of her songs. “Islamic Lies”, “Burn the Pages of Quran” and “When Islam Brainwashed Mankind” are just a few examples.
“I am fully anti-religion in general”, Anahita says. “But I didn’t live in a Christian atmosphere and the Christian people didn’t kill anyone who means something to me.” The Iraqi black metal’s anti-religious message is clearly focusing on Islam, and this has to do with the geographical and social context. As the Lebanese black metal group Ayay said in a statement: “We never described ourselves as Anti-Islamic Black Metal. We are against the religious establishment in all its forms and Islam is just one form of it.”
Darkness, blasphemy and understanding
There is a diverse metal scene thriving in the Iraqi underground. Anahita says that there are many bands: “They just need time and money and some help to record their materials.”
Seeds of Iblis (“Iblis” is an Arabic word for the Devil) features five men and one other woman besides Anahita. In 2011 they released their first EP called “Jihad Against Islam”. The album was released on vinyl and CD via the French label Legion of Death, but Anahita has not seen the actual record. “The label made the CD’s and sold them around the world, but for me I can’t get my copies because it’s too hard… the borders won’t let them get inside”, she told the dark music blog Heaven Harvest.
After his virtual encounter with Anahita, Chris Kelly concludes in the Atlantic:
“In a scene revered and reviled for its commitment to darkness and blasphemy, it’s nevertheless rare to encounter musicians who are, quite literally, willing to die for their art. Anahita’s message is controversial, but it also comes with sobering, almost-jarring humanity. As her one-woman war against Islam rages on, her deepest desire seems to be for peace—or at least, for understanding.”
TheAtlantic– 11 July 2012:
When Black metal’s Anti-Religious Message Gets Turned on Islam
Heathen Harvest – 26 February 2012:
Islamic Dissent: An Interview with Janaza