Pub­lished on November 18, 2017
Esti­mate 5 minutes read­ing

We met Hus­sein at Vik­to­ria metro sta­tion and walked to catch a train to see Mehrdad at his home in Malakasa Refugee Camp.

Almost 40 kilo­me­ters out­side the city. As we rode Husein told us about grow­ing up in Ras al-Ayn, the small town, close to the Syr­i­an bor­der of Turkey, where he was born and raised. He described it as beau­ti­ful and diverse, with no con­cept of reli­gion between neigh­bors, and respect for dif­fer­ent cul­tures, Mus­lim, Chris­t­ian, or oth­er­wise. He came from a big fam­i­ly, and they used to go gath­er­ing wood as a fam­i­ly, cousins and all. He remem­bered how they would cut down whole trees and drag them home on their shoul­ders, with a tow­el placed on the neck to pro­tect their skin from the wood.


We arrived at the sta­tion in good spir­its, and Mehrdad was there with umbrel­las and rain jack­ets for all of us because as the train doors opened a mag­nif­i­cent light­ning storm began. We had only walked thir­ty sec­onds from the plat­form, and we were already thor­ough­ly soaked. We had a great time walk­ing into the camp to Mehrdads con­tain­er. As we stepped in Mehrdad hand­ed us dry clothes and slip­pers. The floor of his room was almost inun­dat­ed, but the heater was blast­ing. He had pre­pared a table full of food and drink for us. He imme­di­ate­ly and went back to get an instru­ment that he had made him­self, like a mod­i­fied Sez. The strings were held to the body with safe­ty pins. He had engraved it him­self with per­son­al designs. Husein had already tak­en out his beau­ti­ful Oud and was play­ing med­i­ta­tive­ly. Husein and Mehrdad began to sing imme­di­ate­ly. We were hav­ing a great time. Mehrdad on his instru­ment was so capa­ble and com­mu­nica­tive. His voice was prac­ticed as though he had per­formed in crowds all his life. The songs that he and Husein knew didn’t cross roads very often, but they had a scale in com­mon. Then we set up the cam­eras, and Mehrdad began his sto­ry. No mat­ter how many times you tell a sto­ry, remem­ber­ing is always going to car­ry you back. It was almost impos­si­ble not to be moved. Husein helped trans­late, but grasp­ing what was being said was dif­fi­cult, as nobody could ful­ly under­stand Farsi.


As the inter­view fad­ed out, the instru­ments start­ed up again, and the fil­mo­g­ra­phers were very busy cap­tur­ing the dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. Mer­hdad received a call from his fam­i­ly in Iran, and they spoke for a good while. He said he hadn’t been back in two and a half years. He showed us pic­tures of his daugh­ter when she was small, a recent pho­to that she had sent him, and the soc­cer field where his son plays in Iran. Mehrdad seemed a bit tired after his inter­view, the storm cleared, and Husein went out­side to receive a call from his moth­er in Syr­ia, he let us all say hel­lo. She seemed hap­py. We pre­pared to leave but we missed the train back to Athens, so we hung around the train sta­tion and sang and made jokes. Mer­hdad gra­cious­ly wait­ed with us, but in fact, he fell asleep while we were wait­ing. The train came, and we all embraced and said good­bye. It was a good day.