A group of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have started a petition to enter a song in this year’s Eurovision song contest. They say they they want to pay tribute in song to the noble people of Greece, whose suffering touched them deeply as they passed through the country on their route from the war-torn Middle East to Northern Europe.
The initiative was the idea of a brother and sister, aged 22 and 25, who left their home in Homs, Syria, under heavy shelling eight months ago to travel to Europe. They were excited at the prospect of passing through Greece, say the pair who asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardising their asylum applications in Sweden, because it was Elena Paparizou’s glorious Eurovision win in 2005 with the dance anthem “My Number One” that first kindled the love of music in them. But what the found when they arrived shocked them. “Greece was not as we expected it,” they now say. “Instead of a prosperous, fun-loving, lip-synching, partying people we found a nation oppressed by austerity, enduring a true humanitarian crisis.”
As they travelled through the country, they were touched by the devastation that they encountered. Spending a night in a mothballed Olympic facility in Athens, they mused about the circumstances that might have led to its abandonment, and half-recalled with tears in their eyes the lines of Shelley’s Ozymandias that they had learned in high school:
“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
On their way north to Greece’s border with the land that some call Macedonia but the Greeks refer to by the mystical acronym FYROM, the refugee group were shocked to encounter caravans moving southward, their meagre belongings loaded onto farm machinery. “It was clear that the were fleeing something terrible. But these humble people did not hesitate to share with us their few provisions.” When the farmers explained that they may have to seal Greece’s borders to defend their pensions from raids by the country’s creditors, some of the refugee group initially protested. However, in the end they agreed that a couple more nights sleeping on the cold tarmac was a small sacrifice to make for such a noble cause. The group also expressed their gratitude to the citizens protesting against the establishment of registration “hotspots” for refugees in “unsuitable” locations, saying that that they were truly moved by the concern for their welfare, hygiene and religious sensitivities in such trying times. Meanwhile, they spoke in glowing terms of the selfless and constructive attitude adopted by Greek politicians of all parties, so different from that of their European colleagues.
“We hear that the suffering is bad in Denmark especially after the Eurovision 2014 disaster, and our cousins over there have donated their iPads and wedding rings to help, but it is hard to imagine something worse than this.” The refugee group recall walking across the scorched earth of a once powerful and united continent to reach their destination, pondering how it had come to this: “It’s as if the region is being torn apart by a sectarian proxy war, brother turning against brother, collapsing into a post-colonial mess. Is this how Europe ends? Oh, hang on…”
Throughout their travails, the refugee group never stopped believing in the power of music to teach humanity and help life’s victims back onto their feet. They hope to be granted entry into the ever-expanding brotherhood of Eurovision nations (“Israel is in there,” they note pointedly, “and how do you explain Australia?”). “We don’t care about winning, we just want to draw the world’s attention to the atrocities that are being perpetuated here.” Asked to describe the style of their entry, they said, “We are aiming for “We Are the World” meets Lebanese pop, with a catchy electronic dance beat. And belly dancers”
Meanwhile, in the real news, Greece announced that its entry in Eurovision 2016 would feature a song on the twin themes of the refugee crisis and the Greek financial crisis. The President of the recently-resurrected Greek state broadcaster ERT explained that “we are planning on choosing an optimistic, upbeat song that will have a Greek sound and verse, which will touch the subject of the harsh economic measures that have been imposed on Greek people and the struggle of the refugees, in order to teach people across the world a lesson on humanity.” Giving a further preview of the Greek offering, he stated that there will be no dancers and provocative appearances and effects during the finals, and that the performer would be chosen without a contest. Some commentators discern in this pronouncement the influence of the recent strengthening of ties between Greece and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
There were rumours in Athens earlier this week that a group of Central European nations including Austria and Hungary were lobbying to get Greece excluded from the Eurovision contest, fearing that a flood of phone voters from the Middle East could create a new voting bloc in an already fragmented and divisive European institution. It was later clarified that the threat related to the Schengen open borders zone, not the august musical event.
All hyperlinked sources are actual. Most of the stuff in between is fabricated, with the exception of the bits about Greece’s 2016 Eurovision entry and the putative suspension of the Schengen agreement.
View the Greek Eurovision song, “Utopian Land” by Argo.
Some useful numbers: Reliable up-to-date economic data on Syria are hard to obtain for obvious reasons, but it is estimated that its GDP has plummeted 62% below 2010 levels, while agricultural production has halved from a combination of drought and conflict. Its unemployment rate is close to 60%. More than half its pre-war population are refugees or internally displaced. Prior to the war it had a literacy rate of 90%.
Image via gossip-tv.gr