×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Syrian Arab Idol Winner Refuses to Wear National Flag to Avoid Taking Sides in Civil War

Syrian singer Hazem Sherf, from the civil-war-torn city of Aleppo, was crowned winner of “Arab Idol” during an emotional finale that drew millions of viewers across the Middle East and took on political overtones with the 21-year-old budding pop star refusing to wear or wave his country’s flag to avoid taking sides.

Aired from the Beirut studios of satcaster Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the third season of the Arab version of FreemantleMedia’s Pop Idol format prompted celebrations Saturday night (December 13) in the streets of Syria’s government-held capital Damascus, with people cheering and waving the Syrian national flag in the streets.

But Sherf shunned the show’s standard ritual, in which the winner is draped in national colors, refusing to have the Syrian flag be part of the onstage celebratory choreography. He also steered clear of any political references in interviews and Facebook messages after his victory. “I am 21 years old, and I don’t want my art to be connected to politics,” he told reporters.

Videos posted on social media showed people cheering in Sherf’s native Aleppo, currently at the center of fierce warfare between pro-government forces and insurgents.

In a message posted on his Facebook page on Sunday Sherf asked God to “bring all harm to light” and to end “calamities,” a clear reference to the civil conflict that has killed roughly 200,000 people to date according to a United Nations estimate.

Sherf edged out fellow finalists Haitham Khalaileh from Palestine and Saudi singer Majed Al Madani for the “Arab Idol” trophy. The judging panel comprised Emirati pop star Ahlam, the Egyptian musician and media personality Hassan El Shafei, and Lebanese hit makers Nancy Ajram and Wael Kfoury.

He won a recording contract with Dubai-based label Platinum Records, 250,000 Saudi Riyals ($66,000) and a holiday for three in the Seychelles.

Sherf, with a silky voice and a solid pan-Arab playlist including Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian ballads, had been a favorite throughout the four-month competition.

After winning, he pledged to soon hit the road for a live tour, saying his biggest wish is to have his first performance in Syria, for all the Syrian people.

Since the Middle East does not have an exact TV ratings metric system, MBC did not provide ratings figures for the “Arab Idol” final, which had a potential audience of more than 120 million viewers.

Not surprisingly, politics are a recurring aspect of “Arab Idol.” The winner in 2013 was Mohammed Assaf, a young onetime wedding singer from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Assaf’s watershed “Arab Idol” victory last year was discussed by heads of state in peace negotiations and earned him U.N. diplomatic ambassador status. In June Assaf performed a World-Cup anthem during FIFA’s 64th Congress in Sao Paulo, broadcast live to millions, becoming the first Arab artist to ever perform at a FIFA World Cup Soccer event.

 

More TV

  • Guy Fieri Walk of Fame Honor

    Food Network Orders 'Tournament of Champions' With Guy Fieri as Host

    Food Network and celebrity chef Guy Fieri are teaming up again, this time on a culinary competition program. The five-episode “Tournament of Champions” will feature 16 chefs going head-to-head in a series of challenges using ingredients and special cooking tools and equipment  while racing against the clock. The difficulty of the challenges increases with each [...]

  • Daisy May Cooper Signs on for

    Daisy May Cooper Signs on for Baby Cow Comedy 'The Witchfinder' for BBC Two

    Daisy May Cooper, the star of hit BBC comedy “This Country,” is to play a suspected witch being escorted to trial in seventeenth century England in new BBC Two comedy series “The Witchfinder.” Cooper will star alongside actor and comedian Tim Key, who plays a failing witchfinder transporting her to a trial that could change [...]

  • Sky Original Anna

    Sky Sets Post-Apocalyptic Italian Original, 'Anna,' With Wildside Producing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Comcast-backed Sky is making a new Italian original titled “Anna,” centered on a 13-year-old Sicilian girl who must contend with a viral contagion that has killed off all adults on the island. The series, which has echoes of “The Walking Dead” and “Hunger Games,” is based on a book by the same title by author-turned-director [...]

  • The Good Cop

    ‘Fauda’ Producer Yes Studios Develops Comedy Series ‘Shared Spaces’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Yes Studios, the Israeli production-distribution company behind such hits as “Fauda,” “Your Honor” and “On the Spectrum,” is developing “Shared Spaces,” a high-concept comedy series. “Shared Spaces” is currently in development with the writer-creator Erez Aviram on board. Aviram is the co-creator of the Israeli police comedy “The Good Cop” (pictured) which was adapted in [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Who Survived to See the 'Red Dawn'?

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Red Dawn,” the fifth episode of “American Horror Story: 1984.” After five episodes, “American Horror Story: 1984” is moving onto another day within the story. The sun finally came up in “Red Dawn,” but not every would-be counselor at Camp Redwood survived to see it. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content