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Statement from Mashrou' Leila on Jordanian Government Banning of Their Show (Again)

[The following written statement and video was issued by the Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila on 13 June 2017 in response to news that the the Jordanian government had officially cancelled their 27 June 2017 show in Amman. This represents the second year in a row that this has happened, despite obtaining all necessary permits and other documents in the lead up to the show.]

We regret to inform you that the Mashrou’ Leila concert, which was supposed to take place on the 27th of June in Amman, has been cancelled following a decision by the Jordanian ministry of interior.

The decision was reminiscent of last year’s concert, when our performance was authorized, then banned, then the ban was lifted, all of which was surrounded by shameful coverage of Jordan in international press. 

Again, after being invited to perform in Amman this year, and after the concert organizers obtained all the necessary licenses and permits, the Jordanian authorities have banned our performance. 

We were genuinely under the impression that the Jordanian authorities were taking a clear stand with regards to freedom of expression, and the internationally sanctioned human rights pertaining to the LGBTIQ+ community, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Jordan’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, HRH Prince Zeid Bin Ra’ad Al Hussein has been supporting. 

The inconsistency of the Jordanian authorities in this respect (inviting us, then banning, then cancelling the ban, then inviting us again, then banning us again - all within the course of 14 months - has culminated in a clear message, that the Jordanian authorities do not intend to separate Jordan from the fanatical conservatism that has contributed in making the region increasingly toxic over the last decade. 

We are terribly disheartened and sorry for our audience that this is happening again. We were extremely excited to return and play our music to our audience, friends and families who live in Jordan, and have been our foremost advocates since the band’s conception. We are sorry for being forced to exclude Jordan from our tour in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas, which will still go on as planned. 

Since all of this directly echoes the events of last year, we will reiterate our own statement from a year ago: 

"An in-depth reading of the band’s stances and our songs reveals our interest in various social struggles, questioning the nature of freedom, and addressing various issues that we cannot ostrich ourselves from, be they oppression, censorship, gun control, sexual repression, the patriarchal oppression of both men and women, or the difficulty of just being, when being is in a society that constantly extinguishes our aspirations…..Saying that the band must be banned from playing in Jordan because our songs address themes of sexuality, homosexuality or support righteous democratic protests against social or political problems, is essentially saying that any artist addressing basic human rights through their work should be banned. This is a rather hostile approach towards human rights and democratic processes.” 

Furthermore, pretending that these oppressive decisions are necessary under the guise of protecting “Jordanian customs and traditions” frames said traditions in a horribly regressive light. This is a misrepresentation of the people of Jordan, who we know are progressive supporters of human rights, and who respect intellectual and cultural pluralism. 

Again, “one has only to look at the reaction of the Jordanian people to the cancellation, to see that the notion of a singular, homogeneous society that shares these “customs, and traditions,” does not seem to apply to Jordanian people, much as it cannot apply to anyone and anywhere else. Most importantly, the vile and absurdly fallacious smear campaign led by the Jordanian media and somehow supported by certain members of the Jordanian government, continues to go un-reprimanded, as though publishing defamatory imputations in the media to score some sort of petty “victory” against free speech, were not “at odds with Jordanian customs and traditions.” 

On a more personal note, over the last 3 years of playing in Europe and the Americas, we have repeatedly leveraged our position in the public eye to be particularly vocal about defending the Arab and Islamic community in the face of US and European aggression, misrepresentation, and stereotyping. 

It is disheartening to see a few members of that community trying to pit that very same community against us. We will not stop defending the Islamic community on account of this. Nor will we stop defending the LGBTIQ community on account of this. Nor will we change anything about how we go about making and performing our music. We are not afraid of the various death threats we’ve received over the last few days. We refuse to be ashamed of supporting our queer band-mate. We are proud of our work. We are proud of our audience, as always. If anything, today we are ashamed of the decisions of the Jordanian authorities. 

 

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What is Vox Populi?

Vox Populi features popular artistic and aesthetic expressions that emanate from the Middle East. It seeks to highlight silenced and/or underrepresented cultural forms and conduits while challenging official and mainstream cultural production and narratives about the region. In addition to showcasing the independent work of ordinary citizens and groups—which includes street art, graffiti, popular non-commercial songs, hip hop, DIY YouTube series, etc.—the page aims to capture new and changing forms, spaces, and avenues of political socialization and mobilization. Through interviews, analysis, individual and institutional profiles, video snippets, films, music videos, and visual and street art, Vox Populi communicates and showcases important trends about/from the region that are often left out in what is otherwise serious analytical treatments.

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