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Watch: New DAM hip hop track with video co-directed by Jackie Salloum targets violence against women

DAM featuring AMAL MURKUS - If I Could Go Back In Time لو أرجع بالزمن

Palestinian hip hop pioneers DAM (damrap.com) released a new song and powerful video today taking aim at violence against women.

In the track, “If I could go back in time” – featuring Amal Murkus – the group’s members Suhel Nafar, Mahmood Jrere and Tamer Nafar rap the story “backwards” from death to birth of a young woman murdered by members of her family for refusing to marry against her will. Amal Murkus sings the chorus.

Challenging “honor” crimes

“The song is not a specific incident but it describes the phenomena of honor killing in general,” Suhel Nafar explained at a launch event in Ramallah, according to the Wafa news agency.

One year ago, Palestinian Authority de facto president Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree canceling legal provisions that treated perpetrators of honor killings more leniently. However, that decree remains “ineffective,” according to a press release accompanying the new video, which noted that in the first eight months of this year, 12 women and girls had been killed in so-called “honor” crimes.

“Honor crimes” are crimes committed against women for “tarnishing the name and the honor of the family. There were 32 cases of “honor killings” in the occupied Palestinian territories between 2004 and 2006. Thirteen women were killed in “honor killings” in 2009, according to a report by UN Women (PDF).

Harsh economic and social conditions in the occupied territories have also contributed to violence against women.

A revolution so that women are one hundred percent equal with men

Laws that treat honor crimes more leniently – often a legacy of colonial times – remain on the books in several countries, including Jordan. DAM’s Tamer Nafar told The Electronic Intifada he hopes that this video will send a message “to the leaders in the Middle East so they can fix the law. Murder is murder, it doesn’t matter what is the cause.”

Nafar says the message is also aimed more broadly: “It’s a message to my people, to all Arabs, that our revolutions aren’t just against oppression from politics and leaderships. It must be a revolution so that women are one hundred percent equal with men.”

Produced with the support of UN Women, the striking and dramatic video was directed by Jacqueline Reem Salloum and Suhel Nafar. Salloum directed the acclaimed 2008 film Slingshot Hip Hop which helped introduce DAM, who are from the city of Lydd in an area of historic Palestine captured by Israel in 1948, and Palestine’s burgeoning hip hop scene to the world.

In May, Nafar and Salloum collaborated on a short film Yala to the Moon.

New DAM album

“If I could go back in time” is one of the tracks on DAM’s much anticipated second album “Dabke on the moon - Nudbok al Amar,” due to be released later this month.

Whereas DAM’s first album “Dedication” documented reality, according to a press release, the new album “is a feature musical based on reality, telling real stories though fiction” and is “more melodic and alive with Arab pop sounds.”

Lyrics: “If I could go back in time”

Suhel Nafar:

Before she was murdered, she wasn’t alive
We’ll tell her story backwards from her murder to her birth
Her body rises from the grave to the ground
The bullet flies out of her forehead and swallowed into the gun
The sound of her echo screams, she screams back
Tears rise up from her cheeks to her eyes
Behind the clouds of smoke, faces of her family appear
Without shame, her brother puts the gun in his pocket
Her father throws down the shovel and wipes the sweat off his forehead
He shakes his head, satisfied from the size of the grave
They pull her back to the car, her legs kicking
Like a sand storm, she’s erasing her own tracks
They throw her in the trunk, she doesn’t know where she is
But she knows that three left the house and only two will return
They reach the house; throw her to the bed in violence
“So you want run away huh?” they wake her with violence

Amal Murkus (Chorus)

If I could go back in time
I would smile
Fall in love
Sing
If I could go back in time
I would draw
Write
Sing

Mahmood Jrere:

She dreams before falling asleep
We’ll tell her story backwards, maybe understand
The clock hands move right to left
She reconstructs her steps as if she were lost
She sleeps prepared, money for the taxi
Plane ticket and passport under her pillow
Answer: leave the clothes in the close; she plans to wear a new life
Question: what if they ask what the suitcase is for?
She went to bed, leaves table
Eats well, she must act today
Her nose stops bleeding, that’s what they see
But it’s a fresh wound; before they will beat her she will beat them
Her mom says “your life is like heaven”
She’s right, if you taste the forbidden you better know someone is watching
Two hours before dinner, the phone hangs up
Her mom is shocked “the flight is delayed”
Phone rings

Amal Murkus (Chorus)

Tamer Nafar:

Before she answers, she isn’t even asked
The story is like the logic in her life, all backwards
Her hands up in the sky, begging for help
Their hands up in the sky reciting the Fatiha (ceremony before marriage)
The calendar page moves one day back, the time is
Afternoon, the argument is over, her brother commands her
Blood flows from her lips to her nose
A sound of a fist, his hand jumps from her face
It’s the first time in her life that she says “NO!”
Her mom announces happily “tomorrow you will marry your cousin”
If I look through the album of her life
I won’t see a photo of her standing up for her rights
It’s hard, the pages are stuck to my hand
Her past full of blood and tears
But we promise you, from her murder to her birth
Their expressions filled with anger as if someone announced a crime
“Congratulations, it’s a girl”
The beginning.

Comments

Thanks for posting this. Really good to hear that DAM is making a stand for women and highlighting this issue, especially as men and Palestinians. It's an issue in the UK as well and I am sure in other countries. The public and the authorities are not always aware on how to recognise the signs that might lead to an honor- based violence or killing and prevent it from happening. If they do, it's still a vey difficult life for these women.

Thanks for this great post. DAM's new video is wonderful and its topic is very important. The lyrics, music and visuals are deeply moving. As a Gender Studies graduate student, I've been researching representations of women and women's involvement in Arab hip hop and I think Ali is right: this is video is huge - and complex

I'm excited to see DAM tackling this topic. Sabreena da Witch, one of DAM's collaborators, has expressed frustration that previously no Palestinian rappers were addressing honor killings. In addition, this video represents by far greatest number of women I've ever seen collaborating with DAM. These are two very important, positive developments. But here's where I think Arab hip hop and the Palestinian solidarity community still have some work to do:

In Arab hip hop, many men are speaking for women, but few women are actually getting on the getting the mic. For example, Sabreena Da Witch has been public about how hard it was for her to collaborate with DAM because of sexist dynamics made it difficult for her to appear on stage with them.

I am also disappointed by the way that this song frames Palestinian women's resistance to violence. DAM's lyrics mention a couple times that this fictitious woman didn't stand up for her rights until she decided to run away. Either this establishes her as a "good girl" and thus magnifies the tragedy at the expense of "bad girls" or it just denies her agency.

It's admirable that DAM is concerned about honor killings, but speaking for others is never ideal. Arab women in hip hop have produced songs about sexism -- and not gotten nearly as much attention for it. The context surrounding gender in Arab hip hop is complex, but supporting women artists seems to me to be crucially important.

Joy, thanks for your feedback and recommendations. I believe that it is crucial that women and men work together to get the message out on violence against women. Sometimes it takes collaborations, such as this one, to get the message out and encourage men to play an active role in ending VAW.