Travelled to Berlin to hear the stories of three Syrian refugees

Syria has been shattered by conflict since March 2011; more than 5 million people have been forced to flee the country and rebuild their lives elsewhere. Jessica Bateman travelled to Berlin to hear the stories of three Syrian refugees who now call the city home and are working hard to keep their culture alive in the German capital.

Berlin’s Sonnenallee is a 5km stretch of main road running between the certified hipster districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg. Back in the communist period, the street was intersected by the Berlin Wall and contained a border crossing, still marked by two lines of cobbled stones.

That the street was once home to a wall between communities seems fitting, because today Sonnenallee has become something of a bridge. Shisha cafés like those in Damascus or Beirut sit next to coffee shops serving flat whites to bespectacled laptop workers.
The smell of shawarma and tobacco mixes with fumes from the busy traffic, and voices speaking in Arabic, German and English catch your ear as you walk along. The Sonnenallee of 2017 is now affectionately known as “Arab Street”, and is the unofficial hub of Berlin’s newly arrived Syrian community.

Although the city has long been home to large Middle Eastern and Turkish populations, the more than 600,000 Syrians who’ve arrived in Germany since the outbreak of the civil war are making their presence felt.

Along with the Syrian restaurants popping up in and around Sonnenallee, throughout the city you’ll also find Syrian-led tours, music, dance and storytelling nights and community projects such as refugee kitchens.