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Ninar Salloum just arrived at the port police station on the Greek island Leros. She is on her journey to Hamburg, planning to meet up with her four best friends from Syria

Melodies and memories in a refugee camp

Ninar Salloum just arrived at the port police station on the Greek island Leros. She is on her journey to Hamburg, planning to meet up with her four best friends from Syria

By: Anna Franziska

Ninar Salloum and the other band members from Solos

The tiny port police station at Leros has been transformed into a refugee camp. At the station, the fuss after the latest arrival of approximately 150 Syrian refugees this morning is about to subside.
One of the new arrivals is 21-years-old Ninar Salloum who is travelling alone from Syria. Ninar Salloum is humming a melody from the Syrian lullaby ‘Mom, please say goodbye to me’- a song her and her band used to play.
“I would like to go to Germany because I love to sing, and Germany is a good country if you want to do something with music, ” Ninar Salloum says.
She is sitting in a corner of the courtyard at the station, which will make the bedroom for her and about seven other Syrian refugees the coming night.

The girl gets the last word
Back in Damascus, you could often find Ninar Salloum and her band practising at each other’s houses or playing at the Zeriab café. The name of their band was Solos, and Ninar Salloum was singing while the rest were playing the instruments.
“We all like different kinds of music, and the result of our genre disagreements often ended out in a sound mixed by rock, country, oriental, jazz and Turkish music,” she explains while lightening a cigarette.
“Mostly I got the last word in our discussions because I am the only girl,” she continues with a twinkle in the eye.
One and a half year ago one of the band members, Maher Alkadi who played the violin, left Damascus for a better life in Hamburg.
“When Maher left we all made an agreement to meet up in Hamburg. I hope that the five of us will all soon be together so we can continue playing music together.”

“Bombs were falling around my house”
Ninar Salloum and her family had a beautiful house at a traditional, cosy street in the ancient part of Damascus. Before leaving, Ninar Salloum just finished her bachelor in English Literature.
“Even though my life in Syria was okay, bombs were falling around my house. I did not want to wait leave until something went wrong.”
At first Ninar Salloum tried to get a study permit for Germany so she could go to Hamburg the legal way. Unfortunately, she did not get it, and while her parents and little brother had no plans of leaving Syria, Ninar Salloum could not think about anything but leaving.
“The illegal journey from Syria to Germany is very dangerous, and of course my parents wouldn’t let me go all by myself,” she says.

The dream of going to Germany
For one and a half year Ninar Salloum was begging her parents every day to let her go to Germany. One night she and her dad had a big fight. She left the house and went walking in the streets. After a while she decided to go to Zeriab café to have a cup of coffee.
“After a while sitting at Zeriab I texted my dad ”please don’t break my dream”. When I came back to the house my father told me “your money is ready, you can leave whenever you want”.”
Afterwards, Ninar Salloum instantly booked a one-way flight ticket for Turkey, the first destination on her journey to Hamburg.

“Mom, say goodbye to me”
At the courtyard of the port police station the sounds of screaming, crying, and laughing kids subsides as a bright moon replaces the sun. The Greek island climax makes the nights chilly, and the lucky ones in the camp are now wrapped in blankets.
Ninar Salloum is sitting on an almost intact wooden pallet, on her way to light a cigarette to get some extra heat when one of the other Syrian refugees asks her, “Ninar, could you sing a lullaby for us?”
Ninar Salloum puts the cigarette back in the package while trying to memorise a lullaby. She starts singing “Mom, say goodbye to me”, and people from the corner at the courtyard slowly turn around looking at her.
The song is about a son going on a long journey without knowing what the journey will bring.

While Ninar Salloum sings, the stars do their entry on the Greek dark blue sky. The light from their innocent presence suggests a visual symphony of instruments joining the lullaby.
She memorise the good old days in Damascus where life was about making music, not escaping from war.

The number of refugees arriving at Leros has been steadily increasing during the last four years. Last year, 3,000 refugees arrived at the island, this year more than 15,000 refugees has been doing the journey from the middle east to Leros by boat. The port police station has been used as a refugee camp for one year.

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