Ms. Rajaa Banout from Damascus came to Gaziantep in Turkey three years ago to help refugee women in their difficult conditions in the diaspora. The idea of singing emerged as a means to combat surrender and grief and to inspire strength from the different ancient Syrian melodies under the name of “Haneen” choir, which translates into “Nostalgia”. The members of the choir are all women, most of them are Syrian of various ages. They are also brought together by the reality of suffering, by captivity in the prisons of the Syrian regime or even the extremist Islamic brigades before resorting to Turkey. The aesthetic of the choir lies in the diversity of its Syrian cultural colours of Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac and other languages.
Lady Banout had a long career in art, as she used to organise concerts and choirs in Damascus. But the reality of Syria and the lack of security drove most of her family to immigrate in pursuit of safety, leaving behind their wealth and successful business. When she was with her husband in Qatar, she decided to travel alone to Antep in the Turkish south to provide practical assistance to the Syrian women in need, who often support their families by themselves in the Diaspora, either because their husbands passed away in the Syrian war or migrated in search of better life opportunities in Europe and elsewhere. Thus, Ms. Banout and her women struggle in the face of their living conditions intellectually and culturally through “Nostalgia”. The choir released its first album early this year.
Of course, Ms. Banout’s ambition is not limited to the musical and artistic shows displayed, as it also includes various aspects of social work with institutions concerned in refugees’ conditions, in addition to workshops on politics and women’s rights, and on the future of Syria. She hopes to enlarge her idea to include more than 1,400 Syrian women, 100 for each Syrian province, to rebuild the country after post-war.
Source; WomanInTheWorld Photo Credit; 2016/2017 © Heike Steinweg