Iraqis turn to sketches and songs to contain virus

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by Dawood Salmane with Ayman Henna in Baghdad

Bushy moustaches, thick Syrian accents, fistfights in 1930s Damascus and… medical masks? A parody of a popular Syrian television show is raising awareness on curbing the coronavirus outbreak in neighbouring Iraq.

Artists in Iraq’s southern port city of Basra have adapted the beloved characters of “Bab al-Hara” (“The Neighbourhood Gate”) — a 10-season period drama watched across the Arab world — to convince their compatriots to take the pandemic seriously.

In one skit, the show’s main character Abu Issam returns to the Syrian capital Damascus unannounced after a long absence, just in time to keep his son from getting into a street fight.

“Put on your mask!” Abu Issam, played by Iraqi artist Mohammad Qassem, scolds his son.

When his wife — also played by Qassem — later draws close to welcome him home, Abu Issam slaps her.

“Don’t you know that hugging and kissing are forbidden? We’re in the time of corona(virus)! Disinfect the house!”

The scenes are meant to be lighthearted, but the messages behind them are no laughing matter, Qassem told AFP.

“We created these skits to raise the public’s awareness of what measures the health ministry has asked them to commit to, how to disinfect and clean your hands, and how to abide by the lockdown,” he said. (AFP)

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