Iraqi musician Majed Abdennour plays a custom-built lute made from a Kalashnikov assault rifle and an ammunition box, at his home in the capital Baghdad's southwestern al-Bayaa neighborhood, on August 9, 2019. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
It may sound as if Baghdad resident Majed Abdennour is playing the lute, but on closer inspection the Iraqi musician is clutching a repurposed Kalashnikov.
Wearing a blue blazer and dark tie, Abdennour strummed the strings of his unusual instrument which has an ammunition case as a sound box.
The Iraqi teacher in his fifties had the assault rifle at home to "protect" himself and his family during the worst years of sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital.
From 2006 to 2008 militants and extremist Islamists ruled Baghdad, while Sunnis and Shiites hid behind closed doors in their respective communities.
"All of a sudden, it was as if all the ties that had connected us didn't matter anymore, Iraq became a huge battleground, war was everywhere," said Abdennour.
According to the Iraq Body Count database, more than 100,000 civilians were killed in the country between the 2003 US-led invasion and the withdrawal of American troops in 2011.
"I ask myself: why war? Why the violence? I'll transform all that into music," said Abdennour, who lost a number of cousins and friends in attacks.
When he took his Kalashnikov and its ammunition case to a metalworker, he was quizzed about what he wanted to do with the weapon.
"I told him: don't ask questions, do it!"
"And I was sure that he thought I was mad," said Abdennour, before continuing to strum a song.
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