Saturday – February 25, 2017
Dear Beyond Borders team,
How are you all?
Sehri, Kara, Tatev, Nurcan and I just spent a beautiful week together with the Fearless Collective in Beirut creating a home together in a beautiful old house in Sanayeh park area of Beirut. We lived, ate, shared stories and created a beautiful mural together. The day right after we arrived the Fearless Collective held a storytelling workshop where each of the participants (we were about 20 people from Beyond Borders, the Fearless Collective, locals from Lebanon, including Armenians, Palestinian and Syrian refugees, Ethiopian migrant workers and expats living in Lebanon) would sit one by one by a large chest and unpack whatever was inside the chest while telling our story of home and then we would pack all the things back into the chest telling about how we want to envision home for ourselves. Many of the stories about home were filled with violence, being uprooted, being immigrant, refugee, migrant, abuse, but also beautiful things like nurturing grandmothers, nature, olive trees and childhood. It was quite intense and beautiful.
The following days we spent with each other, sharing more stories, asking each other about home and how we can create a temporary home together, singing songs, listening to rap, exploring the city to find walls to paint on, interacting with locals in Beirut. Finally we found a wall in Bourj Hammud, which is a predominantly Armenian neighborhood in Beirut. It was very intense for all of us…the neighborhood is full of Armenian flags, graffiti about nationalism, self-sacrifice, remarks about “Turkey guilty of genocide” and the memory of this tragedy is quite alive in the people there. It was quite sad to see that in parallel with Syrian Armenians and Syrians refugees living in former camps where Armenias lived one hundred years ago escaping from Ottoman Turkey through Syria. In the neighborhood we decided to paint the mural the neighbors were very welcoming and kind to us, giving us tea and food.
But we had one incident where the young Syrian refugee boy who was with us gave a short interview for the Fearless Collective film and some of the Armenians neighbors were upset because the boy was speaking against the Assad regime, but many Armenians are pro-Assad because in Syria they had many privileges and do not understand how discriminated other Syrians were inside of Syria…eventually we found a way to deal with this issue, but it was a topic of disucssion for many days. We were also thinking about Sehri’s and Nurcan’s safety, because we were afraid that if the Armenians there found out about where they are from, they might react aggressively.
We also had a moment with Sehri, Tatev, Kara and ey when we were singing songs with the Armenians in the neighborhood and they asked where Sehri is from and we lied…and then it was sad, and we were crying…it was just intense…but I am so grateful for us and our group, I remember talking to Sehri about how we should do a non-verbal communication workshop, but in the end we realized that the entire time of us being in that neighbrohood and also living in that house together in Sanayeh was like a workshop. We brought our honesty, trust and love with us.
I am attaching final result of the mural. In Armenian it says “welcome a thousand times” and ” our heart is here”. In Arabic it says “if they are not asking about us, let us ask about each other”.