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Aeham Ahmad, the pianist from the Syrian ruins

Stefan Dege / egOctober 29, 2015

He placed a piano in the middle of the ruins of Damascus and played music. Now Aeham Ahmad is living in a refugee center in Munich - and is a rising star embodying the courage of all the Syrians who've reached Germany.

Syrian Pianist Aeham Ahmad in Damascus, Copyright: Johannes-Wasmuth-Gesellschaft e.V./Niraz Saied
Image: Johannes-Wasmuth-Gesellschaft e.V./Niraz Saied

The picture of this pianist playing and singing in the middle of the ruins of Damascus traveled around the world. TV reports on the young Palestinian can be found on YouTube and the Internet. Aeham played and sang for the hopeless and miserable. His courage moved everyone because he gave the suffering in Syria a face and created a symbol of hope. Then the "Islamic State" (IS) threatened him and his family. For Islamists, music is "haram," impure.

Aeham had to flee.

IS burned his piano

Yarmouk Camp, the Damascus district populated by refugees where Aeham was born, was completely destroyed by bombs. Houses were reduced to concrete skeletons and the roads disappeared under the rubble.

IS took control of the city in April 2015. One of the terrorists burned Aeham's piano.

The musician had added red and green paint to his white instrument, the colors of the Palestinian flag. An older YouTube video shows him playing for a few children singing with him - a heartbreaking scene.

Pianist Aeham Ahmad at benefit concert in Munich, Copyright: Marc Müller/dpa
Aeham Ahmad playing at a benefit concert in MunichImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Müller

Aeham had to leave behind his sons Kinan and Ahmad, as well as his wife, in their home town. He wants them to join him as soon as possible. The pianist filmed and photographed every step of his expensive journey through Turkey, then Austria, until he reached Germany.

Aehman's courage, and the way he chose to share it with the world, made him the darling of the media. He embodies the image of a refugee who takes his destiny in his own hands and fights to demonstrate that art and culture can conquer evil.

Aeham Ahmad is a trained musician. He has studied Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart at the Damascus Conservatory and was later admitted to the music faculty in Homs.

Now he lives in a refugee center in Munich. He is taking part in different events: He has just recently played for a benefit concert for refugees in Munich. Now Aeham Ahmad will receive the first international Beethoven Award for human rights, peace, freedom, poverty reduction and inclusion in Bonn.