02/27/2017, 10.12
PALESTINE
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A Palestinian Christian, 23, is the new Arab Idol 2017

by Melki Toprak*

It is the most important musical competition, popular across the Middle East and North Africa. Hundreds of Palestinians take to the streets to celebrate the victory. During the program, he repeatedly demonstrated his ethnic and religious affiliation. A Deacon of the Syriac Church, is also a scout of the Arameans of Bethlehem.

 

Bethlehem (AsiaNews) - Yacoub Shaheen, a 23 year-old Palestinian Christian, is the winner of the fourth edition of "Arab Idol", the most important and followed musical competition, popular across the Middle East and North Africa.

The final was held on 25 February and kept fans and supporters throughout the region glued in front of television. At the time of the announcement, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Bethlehem to celebrate the triumph of their neighbor.

In the final, the young Christian defeated Amir Dandan, a native of Galilee, and the Yemeni al-Amar Azaki. He is the second Palestinian to win the event after Mohammed Assaf, born and raised in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, who was the winner - against all odds -  of the 2013 edition.

Shortly after the announcement Norma Shaheen, mother of 23 year-old Palestinian Christian, thanked the crowd that had gathered in the square to follow the final evening. "Yacoub has won for his voice – she said - for his education, for his manners, as well as the love for his people, for Bethlehem and Palestine".
 
Yacoub Shaheen is a Palestine citizen of the Christian origin: he is of Aramean blood and, in the talent race, wanted to repeatedly prove his ethnic and religious affiliation.

In the past he had never considered embarking on a professional career in music, but distinguished himself in the course of the competition surprising the Arab world enthusiasts, professionals and spectators.

Born in Bethlehem, a carpenter's son, Yacoub has always been active in the local Aramean community. Besides being a deacon of the Syriac Church, he is also a scout of the Arameans of Bethlehem. Proud of his heritage, he also threatened to cause controversy because of his very symbolic gesture, given the sensitive context: in one episode he decided to engrave on a plate the word "Seyfo" that, in Aramaic, means "sword". It is the same term used by the Syrians in reference to the genocide in 1915 against them, as well as to the Armenians because of their Christian faith. A genocide, even today after more than a century, it is still denied in the Arab (and Turkish) world and is a source of deep controversy.

The MBC station program kept millions of viewers glued to their TVs not only the Middle East but also Europe and the United States. In fact, all citizens of the Arab countries have the right to apply and participate in the competition, the most loved and followed in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Syrian diaspora - spread mainly in Europe (about 500 thousand), but also in the USA - celebrated the triumph Yacoub. He has brought a wave of happiness for these people who, even today, are discriminated against and persecuted in their homeland or in historic and troubled Mesopotamia.

* President of the Federation of the Arameans (Syriacs) in Switzerland

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