Acrassicauda members receive refugee status

BAGHDAD — Members of the Iraqi band Acrassicauda, spotlighted in the docu “Heavy Metal in Baghdad,” have made it to the U.S., where they have begun a life far from the violence and death threats to which they were exposed in Iraq.

“After eight years of waiting and struggling, it feels good now that we all made it,” the band said in a statement issued in New Jersey, where they are now living.

“We’ve got high hopes for the future that maybe after all we’ve been through it’s time to become four musicians instead of four refugees and finally to stand onstage, steps away from everybody that helped us and supported us and believed in the band and its quest.”

Ironically, the docu, first screened at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007, threw the spotlight on the band just when they were trying to lay low in Damascus, where they were seeking United Nations refugee status.

Made by counterculture magazine Vice, the docu focused on efforts to track down the hard-rockers after they fled Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein but unleashed vicious sectarian violence that is only now dying down.  

Since then, they had lived in Damascus and Turkey awaiting in vain the outcome of their application for U.N. refugee status, which would allow them to seek safe haven in a third country.

Unable to return to Iraq, where they had received constant death threats as they began gathering a following of what bassist Firas al Lateef, spokesman for the quartet, describes as “courageous die-hard fans,” the group believed they would spend the rest of their lives in limbo.

But Vice, concerned with their plight, contacted the Intl. Rescue Committee (IRC) and together they eventually managed to get the rockers to the U.S.

“Like hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, these young men were at grave risk and had to flee for their lives,” said Bob Carey, vice president for resettlement policy at the Intl. Rescue Committee, which is resettling the band members.

“They were very fortunate to make it through the system to find safety here,”  Carey said.

Lateef says an updated version of the docu, which would also include their days in Istanbul, is being considered.

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