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by Mai Mazloum and Nandika Ravi


March is celebrated as Women’s History Month across the world, and a group of women who fled Syria due to the ongoing civil war in their country, is making its own history by empowering each other through a choir group.

Haneen” means nostalgia, and it aims to bring a true sense of home to each of its participants, no matter where they might find themselves.

It’s been six years since the women came together in Turkey, where Raja Banout started the Haneen Choir project. The choir included women from different age groups, singing Syrian heritage songs in different languages including Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen, Syriac, Armenian, Circassian and Assyrian.

The participants of the same project –  who’ve now settled in different parts of the world, including Canada – make it a point to attend these singing sessions online even today.

“Haneen began with a belief that singing is necessary to preserve the Syrian cultural heritage in a time of war and destruction,” Rahaf Elakbani, Founder & Director of Haneen Choir in Toronto, told OMNI’s Mai Mazloum.

This choir group focuses on singing, but in reality, it was established to empower women in preparation for their involvement in building the new Syria. Most of the Haneen members around the world were known for their activities and effectiveness in various aspects of society.
“With the energy charged with nostalgia for our country and nostalgia for our gatherings, I felt it was to preserve our folklore and our songs that we love,” Elakbani said.
“At the same time, Haneen choir helps women get rid of the psychological pressures they live in.”
“It is an opportunity for Syrian women to get to know each other, meet each other and share their concerns,” said Mayada Khalass, a passionate member of Haneen.
“We always used to go on trips and parks and take delicious food with us, as women always do. By the way, most of us are grandmothers and we never used to sing on stage before.”
Watch their full performance here: