Tuesday, Mar 28, 2023

Evian: A Poetry Film On The Syrian Refugee Crisis


Evian: A Poetry Film On The Syrian Refugee Crisis

A boat filled with refugees has died of a ‘heart attack,’ and the Mediterranean Sea itself has 'drowned'.

Evian: A poetry film on the Syrian refugee crisis.
Evian: A poetry film on the Syrian refugee crisis. Shutterstock

Last year,
to mention just one example,
a boat carrying refugees died of a heart attack.
When the first rescue ship arrived,
the Mediterranean Sea had drowned.
They found the water gasping for breath,
the wave soaked through
and the European Union
trying to hang on to a piece of wreckage
from the boat
in order to survive.
They didn’t find the children.
Preliminary results of the investigation
clearly indicated that satellite images showed
the sunken boat
didn’t know how to swim.
On the eight o’clock news that evening,
as the waters of the Mediterranean Sea
flowed gently from the television
on the parquet floors of sitting rooms,
upsetting happy families in safe countries
and causing a minor disturbance to the sexual performance
of the silent majority in central and northern Europe
like mushrooms popping up in the woods,
a middle-class European woman,
asked why they’d come by sea
and not by air after getting visas.
Overwhelmed by this white innocence,
the television committed suicide.
Commenting on the tragic incident by phone,
the integration officer from the Department of Immigration said,
what shall we do now?

A Song for Syria

The new load of refugees who were going to clean up
European pensioners’ shit have all died.
On the eight o’clock news that evening,
a white female broadcaster
who’d never had children,
citing a Middle East specialist
who’d never visited the Middle East,
said that the children might have disappeared
for postmodern reasons when they were playing
hide and seek.
Jesus, son of Mary, was the sole survivor.
They found him walking on the water.

Footnote 1

They’ll take our jobs and our houses,
they’ll seduce our women,
they’ll seize the resources we have allocated
to the poor,
they’ll be infiltrated by criminals and spies,
they’ll pour in and destabilize society
and lead to its breakup.
They look bad,
they carry diseases,
their standards are different,
their culture is different,
their morals are strange,
they’ll never be able to integrate. 

Footnote 2

All the racist words in footnote 1
don’t refer to the current refugee crisis,
as they call it,
meaning Syrian refugees these days.
They were in fact widely used by the Western media
to describe Jewish refugees
from Germany and Austria
who attempted to flee from the Nazis
in the period before the Second World War.

Footnote 3

In 1938,
32 countries met at the Evian Conference
to discuss the crisis of the Jewish refugees
coming from Germany and Austria.
The United States refused to increase
its annual quota of refugees
even before the start of the meeting.
Britain made clear
that United Kingdom was not a country of immigration.
All countries present refused to take them in.
On 13 July,
the Nazi newspaper
Volkischer Beobachter
Wrote triumphantly:
‘Nobody wants them’
(I have the feeling that the writer of the article
was Adolf Hitler in person.)
Four months after the conference,
The Nazis carried out the Kristallnacht pogrom,
then gradually began to solve the Jewish problem
in their own special way,
that led, as we know,
to the Final Solution.

(Translated from Arabic by Catherine Cobham. Excerpted from A Song for Syria: Art, Poems, Stories and Interviews from the Syrian Creative Resistance, edited by Sreemanti Sengupta,  with permission from Odd Books, Kolkata. Ghayath Almadhoun is a Palestinian-Syrian-Swedish poet who was born in Damascus and now shuttles between Berlin and Stockholm. He writes in Arabic and has published four poetry books, the latest Adrenalin (2017)).