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

15 December 2014 8:09 AM, PST | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

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. »

- Nick Vivarelli

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