Because, you know, refugees are people just like us with quirky talents, passions and skills.
Four friends organized the talent show to bring some light into the darkness of refugee camps.
“In Idomeni, there were so many talented people,” says Mahmoud Abdalrhim, a 25-year-old former law student from Aleppo, Syria. “We wanted to show the Europeans that refugees are talented and educated, not ignorant. [Europeans] were seeing us through a certain lens – describing us as numbers, while politicians were using us as bargaining chips. Through our videos, we wanted to show people that we are just like them.”
Mahmoud had fled Syria after the army attempted to force him to fight. He had planned on heading to Germany, where his fiancee was, but instead ended up in being stuck in Lesbos from a boat.
Mahmoud was moved to a new camp in Oraiokastro, together with his three friends – Basil, Sameer and Mustafa, the co-founders of the satirical online television channel refugees.tv, as reported by Al Jazeera News. They had been hopeful to relocate in various part in Europe but those hopes soon lessened as time passed on with no clarification from authorities.
That’s when Mahmoud, Basil, Sameer and Mustafa decided to organize a talent show.“We wanted the residents of the camp to forget their worries,” says Mahmoud. “And we also wanted them to remember who they were before the war. With everything that’s happened to us, many of us have forgotten who we are and how we used to be back home, when we lived a relatively normal life before the war took over. We lost our way. At the very least, we wanted to put a smile on people’s faces.”
“In Syria, we have this show, Arabs Got Talent. I always wished to take part in a show like that. I never thought I’d be a judge,” Mahmoud adds.
A volunteer had donated a speaker and microphone, and they borrowed a table from the camp school to be used for the judges. Proper buzzers were replaced with the use of camping lights to signal to the contestants if they were to move on or not.
“Most people in the camp were excited and enthusiastic about the show and wanted to see it,” says Mahmoud. “There were some who were a bit upset. Conditions in the camp were not the greatest – we had many problems and people were suffering. Some people did not understand why we would be singing and dancing in this situation. But for us, it was a release.”
Refugees performed as rappers, to singing and playing the drums.