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We must help the Syrian people at any cost.

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On February 6, a violent earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 50,000 people. In Syria, already deeply affected by twelve years of revolution and then war, this earthquake affected the population in a very precarious situation: the country has 7 million internally displaced persons, and 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. The distribution of humanitarian aid, which is usually sent from Turkey, has been significantly disrupted. Syrians lack everything.

That is why the NGO Corridor citoyen is organizing a concert in Paris on Thursday 23 March, all profits from which will be donated to three local organizations (MEHAD, the White Helmets, the Maram Foundation). Along with Osaid Arab, Hadi Zidan, Lyn Adeeb, Wael El Kak, Bab and Marc Codsi, French-Lebanese singer, composer and musician Bashar Mar Khalifa wanted to take part in the event. interview.

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Why did you agree to join this concert dedicated to the victims of the February 6 Syrian earthquake?

Bashar Mar Khalifa I generally accept the initiatives proposed to me. As an artist, I have to be present for important reasons. In our modern societies, we sometimes have the impression of not knowing why we do things. As a musician, I’ve often wondered why I make music. So it is important for me to feel the benefit by joining such initiatives.

I participated in many concerts for Lebanon: In my home country, the situation has been catastrophic lately. This is about Syria, a sister country in which I have many friends, including many artists… And the musicians in this concert program are mostly my friends. Whether it’s Lynn Adib who I’ve already collaborated with, Lebanese DJ Hadi Zidan who pushes me to give my best when we play together or even Acid Arab who I’ve been seeing for several years. We are all close, and it’s great that we can meet like this in Paris.

Ruins of a building destroyed by the February 6 earthquake in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwestern Syria, on February 27, 2023. The earthquake killed nearly 6,000 people in the country. (Abdulmonam Issa/Getty Image via AFP)

How do you see the situation in northern Syria?

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I get the impression that in France there is a lot of ignorance, gray areas, when we talk about the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, Iran… People, who have a lot of concerns in their own country, say to themselves: “There, it’s complicated.” For my part, I believe that we should always be on the side of the people. When the Syrian people rose up peacefully in 2011, they were the first in this region and for our generation to do so. He did it with great conviction, with a force of youth, new ideas and an incredible energy that has inspired so many other peoples. But totalitarian regimes are slowly regaining the upper hand, supported either tacitly or even actively by other states, including some democracies. So many lives have been lost… It’s so hard for them. Hope is gone. And with the earthquakes in the past month, it’s even more apparent. The media showed the aid being sent to Turkey. But there were far fewer in Syria.

A week after the earthquake, “we lack everything” in northern Syria

We are afraid to help the Syrians, we question the true destination of the aid, we are afraid of supporting a regime that we denounce elsewhere… But, again, it is the people who pay the price. That is why this evening is useful. Political issues should not disrupt humanitarian assistance to people who need it most. When we see children emerging from the rubble, people in distress, we cannot go into politics. It is clear that you have to fight against those who have to be, and do it at the right time, but you need to help people at any cost. Disaster areas and human lives sacrificed were forgotten. We have the impression that the lives of Syrians are less valuable than the lives of other peoples. So music, of course, is not what will bring people out of the piles of rubble. But it’s a good slider: it brings people together, refocuses minds, when politics confuses the issue, puts us to sleep, and diverts our attention from the essentials. Music is the truth that cannot be escaped. It is something much more powerful than anything else.

Twelve years ago, on March 15, 2011, the first demonstrations broke out in Syria. A revolution seems forgotten today…

I forgot? There were no tangible results, in the sense that the man who runs the country remained at the helm of the state. But I have not forgotten this revolution. And I haven’t forgotten who is at the helm of this system. And what I forget least are those well-intentioned rhetoric by Western governments, which on the one hand condemn the atrocities being committed and on the other support, sometimes hypocritically, their perpetrators. But talking about politics is a way to feed the beast. I feel more honest when I’m on stage and making music, because there are no lies then.

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After the earthquake in Syria: “There is no justification for diplomatic normalization with Assad”

But can we change things with just music?

Mostly not. The Syrian revolution certainly did not succeed, but it remains an example forever. There is no failure in what the Syrian people have achieved. When you think emotionally, you want those who are protesting to win right away. But the results may come in fifty or even a hundred years. The important thing is the way. The truth of shattering fear and taking to the streets will be an example to follow from generation to generation. Because breaking the cycle of fear is the most important action. After that, it’s up to everyone to do the best they can in their area, and to do so with sincerity and a lot of love.

An aerial photo of a demonstration in Idlib, the opposition-held city in northwestern Syria, on March 15, 2023, on the twelfth anniversary of the revolution against Bashar al-Assad's regime.  The crowd holds a flag with three stars, a symbol of revolution.
An aerial photo of a demonstration in Idlib, the opposition-held city in northwestern Syria, on March 15, 2023, on the twelfth anniversary of the revolution against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The crowd holds a flag with three stars, a symbol of revolution. (Omar Hajj Kaddour/AFP)

I am still very close to the region, especially Lebanon where you recorded your last album in difficult circumstances, in your family home in the mountains, in the midst of an economic crisis. Why did you make this choice?

It was really an obsession to record an album in this house. Every time I go there I rediscover the feeling that there is music out there, between these walls, and that I had to catch something of that kind in these stones. This need has existed for a long time. When the Lebanese revolution broke out in 2019, a month or two before the recording, of course the question arose: Shall we preserve this project or do it elsewhere? The entire team was ready to continue our momentum.

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So, in fact, the conditions were not at all classic. We had to adapt to the difficulties involved in a house in the mountains in Lebanon, the lack of electricity, water, heat… It is clear that these recording conditions somehow translate into the music. But this album is not about the economic difficulties of my country. It tells more about the chaos in which I find myself immersed. I don’t want to limit this album to a question of geography: limiting music within borders is too simple. I think we have to emphasize the cosmic side, the universal side of music.

Music for Syria, evening of support for the Syrian people organized by Corridor Citoyen, Thursday March 23, from 8 pm, at The Key (8 boulevard de la Madeleine, 75009 Paris). With Acid Al-Arab, Bab, Bashar Mar Khalifa, Hadi Zaidan, Lyn Adeeb, Mark Codsi, Wael Al-Kak.

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