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Syrian woman gathers refugees in Turkey into women’s choir to grieve, find strength

By WITW Staff on March 1, 2016

Raja Banout was told by those around her that her idea was crazy: creating a choir of Syrian refugee women to sing traditional songs each week as their country was devastated by civil war. “They said, ‘You are crazy, we are at war.’ And I said that is exactly why we should sing,” Banout told Voices of America.

In the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep, the 60-year-old Banout has gathered fellow refugee women in her apartment each week to sing about their homeland, their lost and destroyed houses, their encounters with the military regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the dissolution of their families that came from diaspora. Banout invited women from all over Syria, singing in a half-dozen languages and sharing traditional folk songs from their cultures. She named her choir “Haneen” which means “nostalgia” or  “yearning.” And though many of the gathering are filled with grief and tears for the women’s loss, Banout says that part of her plan is to ready the women for the time when they can go back to Syria and begin to build the culture anew.

“My Marshall Plan is simple,” she says. “To fashion a group of 1,400 determined women — 100 for each of Syria’s provinces — so that when this war is over, they will change Syria.”

Read the full story at VOA.