الراقصون على الأطلال

Those Who Dance on the Staircase

Nadine Al Koudsi

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Sitting in the back of a taxi as I finally break an eight year absence, my palms are sweaty and nose is cold. I find my mind wandering between horror stories of detention and torture and at the same time, anxious to get there.

I blankly stare at a TV showing a video promoting tourism in Syria as the officer asks me questions of where I will be staying in Damascus, in case they need to find me. I wonder who they’ve made this video for and if travelers will ever find their way back. Somehow I find it strangely comforting as images of the sea keep playing in a loop, then comes the sound of my passport being stamped. “Welcome back,” he says.

Nostalgia comes from two Greek words; nostos means ‘return home,’ and algos means ‘pain.’ Is it the pain of being away from home or is it the pain of returning home? The loss of connection to our home country is a fundamental loss - it is the loss of ourselves. This is why our desire to return home may be understood as the ultimate nostalgia, the end of our voyage, the healing of our wounds.

This project explores the different dimensions of nostalgia within Syrians currently living in Lebanon. It’s the sum of our conversations, the exploration of how we struggle with the desire to return home - or not to - and the many doubts that come along with it. It is a hint of the complexity of one’s decision and aims to raise the question of what happens next. With the global push for the return of Syrians ‘back home’ what will be the consequences when the power of choice is taken away and host countries officially begin forced repatriation?

Syria and Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Riyaq, Lebanon

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Damascus, Syria

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Hussein and his family escaped after his father was captured by ISIS and released. Though Hussein has found his passion for acting and has created many connections of friendship and kinship in Beirut, he aspires to return so he could complete his high school education and continue his studies in the Higher Institute for Dramatic arts in Damascus.

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Damascus, Syria

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Dima moved to Beirut from Damascus after she felt helpless and despair for not being able to help civilians affected by the war. She is currently an activist, a volunteer clown at tented settlements, and uses her illustrations to be critical of the situation in Syria. As she starts her own family, she can’t imagine going back now. ‘How can i go back and keep my head down? I can’t be silenced after all that’s happened.’

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Qaroun, Lebanon

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Omar was completing his army conscription when he was arrested for speaking with a foreign journalist. His detention lasted for 95 days and upon release, he was summoned for a military trial. That is when he escaped and came to Beirut. His passion lies in writing plays and has published a book of short stories called ‘Land of the Smurfs.’ He has applied for asylum in Europe but his application was rejected.

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Maryam was studying in France when the war broke out, she came to Beirut to be close to her family, who live in Damascus. She works with Syrian and Palestinian kids in Shatila and teaches them how to create puppets and their personas as a form of art therapy. She intends on going back to France.

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Ahmad created his puppet, whom he calls ‘Al Muthaqaf’ which translates into ‘The Intellectual.’ He believes that an intellectual can find his way through life without suffering because he is smart. He continues to attempt finding ways to complete his education in Beirut, without avail.

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Qaroun, Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Lana, who currently lives in the US, came back to Syria to explore the possibility of returning, only to be faced with the harsh reality of everyday life and the realisation that most people she knew, are no longer there. She has returned to the US with the hope to keep visiting until the right time comes for her to move back.

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Riyaq, Lebanon

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Naya, who is transgender, was arrested 4 times in Syria for taking part in demonstrations encouraging women to protest for their rights. She was placed with men in prison and was sexually assaulted for over a month. She left to Beirut and currently works for Helem, a nonprofit organization that fights for LGBTQ rights, as the hotline response and emergency officer. She led the International Womens Day march in Beirut demanding equality for women.

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Beirut, Lebanon

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Damascus, Syria

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Beirut, Lebanon

Nadine Al Koudsi

Syria

Nadine Al Koudsi was born in Damascus and raised in Dubai. She is of Syrian and Iraqi descent and has lived between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. Nadine studied graphic design and photography at the American University in Dubai and as been working as a commercial photographer since graduating in 2001. She now seeks to use photography as a medium to tell stories and shed light on social issues affecting people during and after war. This is her first personal project.

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