ATHENS DAY 5
Estimate 6 minutes reading
We agreed to split up in the early afternoon to embark on two different expeditions.
The filmographers went with Husein to his university to explore how he moved through an average day, while another group set off for a meeting with Kush Radio.
Since Husein had graciously agreed, we headed to class with him. He takes an hour-long bus ride to the University of Athens, but the trip didn’t seem so long since we were all very excited to be spending the day together. However, we were not greeted with enthusiasm by his teacher, school security, or program director. Unfortunately, they were extremely reticent to our presence and almost hostile to the idea of filming. The UoA offers programs, support, and classes specifically for refugees. Program director Anastasia Georgountzou explained how vulnerable refugees are and how sensitive one must be to so many different forms of exploitation. But because Husein wanted us there, and because he is such a beloved member of the school community, his request was honored. Eventually, we were granted somewhat unbridled access, and some of the personnel even agreed to be interviewed, and we spoke in depth with the program director, students, and other faculty members. We are immeasurably grateful to UoA understanding and support for Lyrics of Sada.
We met with Kush Radio to discuss making permanent points of contact in Athens and beyond. Kush is a Farsi speaking group that helps introduce refugees into the culture of Athens by giving lessons in Greek, evaluating living situations in camps and among families, reuniting families that are separated, and helping to explain some aspects of Greek culture. For example, they told us, many new immigrants from the bombing zones of Syria and Afghanistan are alarmed by the traditional Easter festival in Athens, as it includes fireworks.
Through them, we were able to reach out to a pianist and musician trapped in an abysmal camp in Serbia, also with a guitar teacher in Athens that was forcibly separated from his wife when the European government wouldn’t recognize their union, as he had never received any documentation in his life. He was a child when his family brought him to Iran from Afghanistan. As a Christian there, he had never received any recognition as a citizen. Growing up in Iran, he had married there with a Muslim woman, and when they immigrated to the island detention centers in Lesbos, the government gave her entry into the mainland but left him in limbo. He had somehow made his way to Athens and employed himself as a guitar teacher. This very resourceful young man had taught himself many valuable skills such as carpentry. (Kush told us that everyone that lived near him in lesbos had a shoe rack made of pallets, for instance) When we asked Kush if they knew of any female musicians living in the camps around Athens, they told us that it was rare to find female musicians in the Farsi speaking communities coming from Iran and Afghanistan. It had been illegal or restricted for females to sing, play music, or have individual voices in these governments. Thus, women musicians would be reluctant to present themselves as such in public. Because of the rarity of female musicians, there were few trapped in the camps, they said. They were too much in demand.
Kush Radio had many stories to tell. So many NGOs call themselves successful, despite the numerous complaints of abuse by beneficiaries living in their camps, because they only respond to their quotas, not to the personal realities of living in their camps. This very inspiring team seemed very much in line with the interests of Lyrics of Sada.
After an exhilarating taxi ride with Athens number one taxi driver, the phenomenal “James Bond,” we arrived at Ampelokipi metro station to meet Zoe Prokopiou, a musicology student at the same university as Husein, and professional violinist. She had many useful leads for us and recommended us to a recording studio in the center of Athens. We look forward to working with her in our musical endeavors.
Later at home, our group worked for a couple of hours on interpreting a single phrase of a poem written by a Syrian friend of Husein, which we had worked into a song. The Arabic language, with up to 500,000,000 words and amorphous concepts, was a source of debate among three interpreters. We had two bilingual speakers of Arabic and two English-only native speakers. The word “kawafy sucra.” was incredibly ambiguous for us. It became almost a philosophical debate, lasting into the early morning, but we agreed in the end, “intoxicated.”