top of page

The Pianist of Yarmouk: A Remarkable Tale of Resilience and Hope

Updated: Apr 17

Book Recommendation of 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad

Photograph of the Book - 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad

The Pianist of Yarmouk: A Remarkable Tale of Resilience and Hope

This is just not a book, it’s a story of a Pianist and the struggles of millions of Refugees in Syria as the civil war made life wretched in those days. The book has the details of Mr. Aeham Ahmad and his father, who has unfortunately lost his vision and his struggle to make Aeham Ahmad a musician. Life was better before 2010 but unfortunately the problem started from 17 December 2010, when a Tunisian vegetable merchant Mohamed Bouazizi poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire. His death created an uproar in Tunisia and mass protest started gripping the country. In those times, people in Syria started saying that ‘Syria is not Tunisia’ and that thought that what happened in Egypt and Tunisia will have no effect in Syria.

Later most educated middle class in those times started chanting ‘God, Syria, Freedom and nothing else’ whereas the then Government followers chanted the slogan ‘God, Syria, Bashar and nothing else’. Yarmouk was a place where most refugees from Palestine used to live. People residing in Yarmouk initially did not want to take any sides, since in times of conflict as per the author Ahmad, the refugees would have been the scapegoats.

Later this Yarmouk was completely sealed off and due to the seize and other tortures, Yarmouk slowly became a ghost town. In the words of the author Aeham Ahmad,

‘The shouting of the salesman, the laughter of children, the joyous cries of mothers, the boys whistling after the girls, the girls – seemingly annoyed – speeding up their steps, Abu Mohammed smoking his shisha at the corner, Abu Balila, hawking his chickpeas – all gone.
… Yesterday, a half a million people lived here. And now? There were maybe 50,000 people left, at most. It was as if a deadly virus has decimated the population.’

As per the author, there were snippers everywhere and slight movements which seemed suspicious made them to shoot and the reason left several innocents dead. There was an incident when a man tried to collect some radish and crouched down to pick. Then everyone heard a shot. The man felt to the ground lying in the grass, covered in blood. This is just one of an instances among several such incident.

With no food and water, the remaining surviving people in Yarmouk shuffled morosely through the deserted street. As per the author, people were aging very fast. Even the author who weighed 65 kilos was only 49. There was no food or ration.

The fighting between rebels and Government forces made the life of ordinary human miserable. As per the author, in late August 2014, with Yarmouk still sealed off from the rest of the world, the bombs continued to fall, and snipers were hiding on the rooftops. These made impossible for the local residents to leave, and their supplies were also cut off.

Book Review of the book 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad

Photograph of the Book - 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad

In all these conditions, even Ahem was hurt with a grenade splinter once, but he recovered. He still played the piano sometimes in the ramshackle streets, sometimes near some person’s house, sometimes inside his musical shop, so as to sing and forget the pain the war has brought into their lives.

Later Ahem started singing with small children. It brought happiness in their mind. But one day a great tragedy happened. In the words of the author.

‘We pushed the piano into the middle of the street. The children waited near the building, where it was safer. I opened the piano lid. Marwan was ready and nodded. I closed my eyes and started to play a song….I nodded at the kids, giving them their clue to start singing. Their clear, bright voices echoed through the street. It felt good, and I closed my eyes for a moment.
...Then I heard a shot. I opened my eyes – and saw Zeinab lying on the ground, to my right. Blood was seeping from her head.

Finally, when Zeinab was taken to the hospital, Zeinab was declared dead.

Ahem was completely broken and finally after many struggles when he finally reached Germany through Turkey, he could tell his story about his life, his struggles, his suffering of his family Tahani, his wife and his two sons, Ahmad and Kinan to the world. Later he was joined by his family, father and mother to Germany.

At the end, the author mentions the story behind the photo that went around the world, of a man in a green shirt playing the piano amid the rubble. And, as anyone who sees it will know, the photo can never tell you what happened before or what came after.

Aeham Ahmad, born in Damascus in 1988, grew up in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascus. He studied music education in Homs and worked as a music teacher. In 2015, he was forced to flee to Germany because of the war in Syria. Today he lives with his family in Wiesbaden and does concerts all over Europe. In December 2015, Ahmad was awarded the International Beethoven Prize for Human Rights.

Book Review & Recommendation of the book 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad

Photograph of the Book - 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad

War does not do any good to anyone. It creates extreme hardships for ordinary human beings and many people and children dies due to starvation. Sometimes, I feel, is War a solution to any problem? Why cannot we stay in peace? Every time a War starts, it creates huge number of refugees and ordinary people have to leave their own homes. It’s suffering everywhere. I only hope that the world never has to take this extreme step as it leads to nowhere except suffering for millions. I only pray that let Peace be established in the world.

I read the book and if I have to rate the book on 10 Stars and 10 being the highest, I will give the book 9 stars.

(Please Note: The above are my own personal thoughts after going through the book. Your views, facts, and opinions after reading the book may differ)

This is all from me in this short article. Hope you have liked my personal thoughts and opinions. Please share your thoughts or comments on the Book Review and Book Recommendation of the book 'The Pianist of Yarmouk' by Aeham Ahmad.

Thanks for visiting the Book Review website:

Thanks and Regards:

Mainak Majumdar, Book Critic


bottom of page