Idlib Calling | 1 maart 2019 | by Evert-Jan Grit

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Meet Ahmed, theater producer from Saraqeb, and friend and partner of PAX. His life is no bed of roses. Saraqeb is in the Syrian province of Idlib, in the northwest of the country. Idlib's future is, to say the least, uncertain.
After a period of daily bombings, it is now much calmer. But no one knows what's in store for the area. Residents are doing their best to carry on with their daily lives. Russia and Turkey have imposed a demilitarized zone in order to separate the Syrian Army and armed militias.
A couple of times a month we speak with Ahmed to hear how he and his family are getting on. He says its important for people in Idlib that we here in the Netherlands hear about what's happening. It makes them feel like they haven't been forgotten.

Idlib Calling: All checkpoints

Wednesday, February 27

Bombs are once again falling on Saraqeb. But we aren’t going to talk about that today. There is also good news. Ahmed has become famous. The video clip ‘All Checkpoints’ that he and his friends made went online, and in a few days more than 20,000 people watched it. We’ve translated the clip and share it with you here – with Ahmed’s permission, of course. I call to ask him about his new status as a pop idol.

“Hi Ahmed, congratulations, what a success!”

“Thank you, but please, I am not famous and certainly not a pop idol. That’s a bit much, isn’t it? ”

“Of course – I’m just teasing…”

“That’s OK —  but we had no idea it would be such a hit. Have you seen the comments on YouTube? Hundreds of reactions. Some are critical, and a few are downright hostile, but mostly there’s a lot of support.”

“Yeah, I noticed. How do you explain it?”

“It’s like this: in this song I sing about the daily misery we go through because of the checkpoints. I’ve talked to you about that before. Everywhere in Idlib and around Saraqeb, armed men throw up checkpoints. They make our lives hell. This isn’t what we were looking for when we started protesting 8 years ago. ”

“From the frying pan into the fire?”

“Exactly! So we wrote a song about it and it looks like we’ve hit a nerve. Everyone here identifies with it. ”

“I don’t get the part where the armed man looks like a blond woman. What’s that all about?”

“Haha, glad you asked. It’s actually a parody of a song by Marwan Khoury called ‘Kull al-Qassayid’ (all poems) – we changed it to ‘Kull al-Hawagiz’ (all checkpoints). To make a long story short: the original is a love story that features a blonde woman. So everyone gets the reference immediately.”

“We’re glad the song is doing so well. But it’s also kind of nerve-racking. We knew that some people wouldn’t like the clip, so we had to be careful with what we say in the song. But if you listen closely you’ll understand what we’re talking about. Again, we didn’t join the uprising for nothing. Thanks for translating it — we hope you like it as much as the people here do! “

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