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Music providing hope

Syrian girls sing of homeland and hope

Sometimes, music speaks when words fail. That’s what a group of Syrian girls discovered through music classes run by the International Rescue Committee.

“Expressing yourself through music can be more powerful than plain words,” says 13 year-old Muna,* one of 26 girls who are now budding musicians at the IRC’s women’s center in Bar Elias, Lebanon. “People can listen to you and relate to your problems more.”

Muna is part of a wave of over 1.2 million Syrians who have fled to Lebanon since war broke out in 2011. Life here is tough for refugees. Families struggle to create new lives in overcrowded apartments and makeshift camps. Parents often won’t let their daughters go to school, or even walk to the store, for fear of harassment or abuse. Teens become isolated and depressed, longing for their homes and friends.

Enter Maya Aghniadis and Tatiana Saadé, two Lebanese musicians who took time out from touring to introduce these vulnerable girls to the power of their own voices. Group activities like music classes can help young people develop skills and rebuild connections and friendships. But as Maya and Tatiana found out, having fun and making music is not always easy.

“The initial interactions were hard,” says Maya.

“The girls were shy and had difficulty expressing themselves.”

Eventually, the musicians earned their student's trust as together they sang popular Syrian and Lebanese songs and the girls tried their hand at playing the guitar and other instruments.

Noor, a 15 year-old from Idlib, Syria, grew to cherish the classes. “I met new friends and musicians who gave us all their positive vibes,” she says. “We enjoyed doing something new and creative.”

Then the group had an idea: why not write a song about their own lives, and their love for Syria?

The girls had never attempted anything like it, but together they wrote “Sanabqa ya Suria (We Shall Remain, Oh Syria),” a powerful and elegant song about disappointment and hope. As the song took shape, the girls became more confident and creative.

“We were able to express ourselves through this song, and show our love to Syria and to our friends,” says Sahar, a shy 14 year-old.

After six weeks of hard work, the girls performed “Sanabqa ya Suria” for an intimate audience of relatives and friends at the IRC women and girls community centre. Their mothers were overcome with emotion.

“We didn’t know that our daughters were capable of creating such a beautiful thing,” marveled one. The girls glowed with pride. “I felt empowered hearing that our mothers were impressed by our skills and talent,” said Noor.

The girls learned one further lesson as they made music: they discovered how to be each other’s biggest supporter. “We didn’t write this song only for us,” insists Muna. “It’s for all Syrian girls who are going through the same hardships each in her own way. Don’t give up, there is hope.”

Listen to Maya, Tatiana, and the girls in the IRC’s class perform “Sanabqa ya Suria” on Soundcloud here.

Lyrics: Sanabqa ya Suria (We Shall Remain, Oh Syria)

(CHORUS)
You promised me, my dear
To stay with me all the way,
And that we would always
Walk together for better and for worse.
Let's be joyful and sing
Let's live and beautify our world
You promised, you promised me, my dear.

Let our past bring us where we left, with a gentle breeze of love and hope.
Let's walk our paths together and never look back.
Let's walk our paths together and never look back.
(CHORUS)

I'm a girl like any other girl
But no, life is not so beautiful.
Life is only beautiful in your arms,
Life is only beautiful in your arms.

Oh light, you lit this life.
Oh secrets, why did you steal people's hearts?

(CHORUS)

Oh Syria, Oh Syria, even though you are sad,
Your heart is filled with energy, energy and will.

Syria my love,
Give me back my dignity,
Give me back my identity,
Give me back my freedom.

*Names and other details have been changed to protect the privacy of the girls.

The Adolescent Girls Initiative in Lebanon is supported by ECHO, SIDA, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, BPRM, SV, Women’s Refugee Commission, and anonymous private donors.