Supporting Syria’s Young Creative Writers

•August 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment


What is the Project about? 

The project involves working with groups of students from Syria,
between the ages of 14 and 19 years old, who are currently supported
by Relief and Reconciliation at their Peace Centre in Akkar, Northern Lebanon.

The objective of the project is to encourage the creative thoughts and
expressions of those who have experienced conflict, loss and tragedy.
By taking part in this they would instead be able to use their imagination
in a positive, constructive and creative way to write about anything they choose.

Upon completion of the students writing their stories, poems, plays, scripts or other form of creative writing I will be publishing them in a book collection. Not only is this important for the students as a recognition of their work but also for their voices and stories to be heard internationally so that they can be seen as individuals and not just a statistic which is all too often the case in the media.

To view more information and support the campaign visit Syria’s Young Creative Writers. 

The Creative Expression within Syria’s Non-Violent Movements

•May 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In a time of destruction, death and displacement despair is an easy state to fall into. However for many Syrian artists it is during this time that their creative expressions are needed the most. We can see throughout history and across nations that it was during such times of disaster that artists, writers and thinkers were at their most powerful, in spite of the persecution they may have endured. The case is no different in Syria. Even though we may not always hear very much about it in the mainstream media.  Distinct from these geo-political, violence fuelled narratives that are so prevalent, Syria’s artists have decided to create their own narrative: of a struggle for freedom and justice against a five decade long repressive regime.

To continue reading click here… 

For the ones who attempted something different

•September 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The Syria I once knew no longer exists,

Instead it is a land that is drenched with blood –

Of the innocent, of the helpless, of the ones who attempted something different.

The Syria I once loved is unrecognisable,

Instead is it a land that has been stolen.

The years of Assad rule did its damage –

A search for something different has led to its punishment

How dare they desire bread, freedom and dignity?!

No! Now they must endure the madness of killers –

Killers of the innocent, of the helpless, of the ones who attempted something different.

The Syria I once knew has become a land which only serves the deranged –

livelihoods bludgeoned,

even Olive Trees, the epitome of peace, on the brink of harvest –

torn from their ground.

The humanity that existed there,

that travelled there in search of truth or in aid

has been ripped out –

severed of its very existence.

And yet, that Syria, the one I still love, the one I still yearn for –

Is still ours,tuberose20131016s-300x493

Its land remembers our love,

Our devotion,

It has not abandoned us,

And we must return it that favour –

We can choose to give up,

Or we can choose to keep searching –

In the name of the innocent, of the helpless, of the ones who attempted something different.

The Wisdom of Tragedy

•September 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Freedom Graffiti Tammam AzzamFor the one who can see things – where others can’t…

Illuminating for certain things –
especially for those
close to the heart.
I do still try and stay hopeful –
when I manage the strength –
because there are so many
still there fighting so hard
for something different.
And here I mean
the existential fight –
for creativity and freedom.
If they don’t give up, I can’t.
Even though the darkness
right now is overwhelming
and an end (or a change)
can barely be imagined.

My Father Whispers

•March 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment


My father lies in the earth of the only land I can call home, and yet I cannot return.

I cannot return to see if he still lies in peace in his final resting place gazing over the Qalamoon mountains.

Now no one can return

– our homes looted and destroyed pointlessly.

Instead of their walls being used as shelter and its furniture to comfort, instead of their gardens providing sustenance, from its abundance of fruit trees, grape vines and olive trees, from its emerging vegetables

– instead it was raped, burnt and abandoned.

The village that holds the memories of childhood, the memories of my father, once the safest place on earth for my cousins and me, now a district of horror, torment and destruction.

Now no one can return.

No one can visit my father.

I am glad of one thing for sure, his loss, NO, our loss, can only be his gain, he did not see, with his tender eyes his land burning, bleeding.

Instead I hope that he sees its future – as bright and fresh and free. This thought keeps me going – I hear him whisper, to keep me sane.

My familiarity of its earth, of its dry and dusty smell, of its sweetness in the night air, does not make it any easier to imagine the chaos that exists for far too many.

I am told not to return, its streets and alleys only serve as graveyards now.

They tell me our reunion can wait, they too appear to have hope

– does my father whisper to them too?

The Metamorphosis of Damascus, 2010

•October 9, 2012 • 1 Comment

Something I wrote about an experience in Damascus, in Novermber 2010…

Experiencing Syria in the height of its summer this year was illuminating in more ways than usual. Only a year ago, walking through Hammadiya market, down Straight Street, towards Bab Sharqi, we experienced history, tradition, art, religion and a feeling of openness and freedom. This summer, I experienced something much more. In less than a year Old Damascus had been transformed, with a dynamic engagement of local and foreign, traditional and modern. People gathered, almost nightly, in the ‘mushroom park’, Syrians, French, Italian, American, British, Lebanese, Russian, and the list goes on. Jazz concerts, rock bands all converged in this tiny park to experience something fresh and unique. Alcohol bought from the corner shop, Lebanese beer the preferred beverage of most. Conversing, language barriers seamlessly irrelevant, politics, gossip, dreams and aspirations being shared, being experienced. A city metamorphosing before our eyes, uniquely, naturally, emerging, at the hands of the people, who desire to be free. This park, this tiny mushroom park, is from where I see the nurturing of a Syrian civil society, uncontrollable, unstoppable.

Tragically, we are faced with something far different today, and yet one thing remains the same, the people’s desire for freedom and their willingness to risk and sacrifice everything for its fulfilment, one day.


Research in a Time of Unbounded Flux

•February 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Submitted for the BRISMES 2012 Annual Conference

For the last few years I have been undertaking doctoral research on civil society in Syria. When I started my thesis I began from a standpoint of relative positivity – exploring the developments that were slowly taking place in numerous areas of Syrian society and investigating the possibility of a more free, active and vibrant civil society within it. It was well known that corruption in the government and its various arms was wide spread and deep rooted. Freedom of expression, in any of its forms, was almost inconceivable. Political participation too was an area that few ever seriously considered in light of the domination and exclusivity of the Baath party with Syria’s single party rule.  Poverty, increasing costs of living and unemployment were problems that were faced by the majority of Syrian people.  Nevertheless, even with these tremendous limitations, things appeared to be moving – after decades of stagnation. However, those years of stagnation finally took their toll and the Syrians are now in the second year of their uprising – living every day in uncertainty as to what is to come next.

Click here to read the rest of this paper…

Empowering Syrian Civil Society

•May 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Submitted as part of a panel on Syria at the BRISMES 2011 Conference.

When I initially started writing this paper things in Syria were relatively calm, with President Bashar Al Assad stating that an uprising in Syria, as had been witnessed in numerous Arab countries, including Tunisia and Egypt, was unlikely to transpire in the same way. There was an overwhelming silence on the Syrian streets which was explained, at least in part and to varying degrees, on two main levels, socio-economic or internal factors and political and ideological or external factors.  If we are to first consider the latter, which would include such things as the government’s cool relations with the West, the subsequent sanctions placed upon it, its lack of a relationship with Israel and its unwillingness to submit to foreign demands – we would find that most are perceived as a strength of the Syrian government which gained significant support of the Syrian people. The socio-economic issues that were attributed to the silence on the streets were the recent introductions of subsidies to public workers, aid to the poorest families, and certain changes, reforms and concessions which opened up the country to a number of products and services that had previously been completely inaccessible, most notably the internet and foreign investment and trade – which were perceived to at least temporarily ease the needs of the people.

In addition to these factors, Assad appeared to be aware of the need for political and social reform while being perceptive of the particularities of Syrian society. He was fast learning that times had changed and that immediate action was needed, showing himself to be up to the learning curve that a number of other Arab leaders had failed to embark upon. According to Assad, those governments which only attempt to make changes and bring in reforms as a result of these recent events taking place across the Arab world, are already too far behind and are unlikely to be impervious to the expression of discontent by their own people. In this way, his initial reactions to the events taking place in neighbouring Arab countries seemed to present a unique opportunity for real change to occur. Assad’s articulation of a reformist agenda and the steps already taken towards implementing a number of these reforms, resulted in, as Sadiki highlights, many of us giving him the benefit of the doubt, in contrast to Gaddafi or Mubarak. However it seemed that the dissatisfaction of the Syrian people was greater than perceived, and their desire for opportunities, representation, equality and empowerment was far greater than anticipated. These minor concessions that had been made by the Syrian government were clearly not enough to hold back the infectious[1] feelings and desires for freedom. Unfortunately, our perception of the moderate position of Assad was also erroneous, with the responses of the Syrian government towards peaceful protestors being extreme, violent and indiscriminate.


To Continue Reading this Article, click here.

A New Arab Nahda?

•February 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

An extract from the first chapter…

Throughout history, across continents, in discourse and in practice human beings have been searching for the ideal.[1] The ideal situation in which we can live to our full potential within the constricts of our tragic reality. An ideal that is unlikely to ever truly be achieved, however, it would seem that this ideal should always be something to strive towards. The West overwhelmingly appears to suppose that they have reached the ideal – democracy – they are the free world, they are the developed world. They are in essence Kant’s strongest nations, they can tell their people that they are free to say what they like but they must… Obey! We can express our discontents, but how often are any of these discontents ever appeased? On the contrary, you have certain nations, Syria for example, that unlike Kant promotes the use of private reason, for you can do anything you like, but do not express your discontents for you have no role in the state! Public reason in this case is not an option. Neither situation is satisfactory or acceptable.

To Continue Reading…

[1] Although we must always have a critical approach to the ‘ideal’.

An Inspiration of the Arab Revolutions….

•February 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Standing with the Tunisian and Egyptian People….


To the Tyrants of the World


Hey you, oppressive tyrants…
You, the lovers of darkness…
You, the enemies of life…
You have ridiculed innocent people’s wounds
Your palm is soaked with their blood
You kept walking
Deforming the magic of existence
Planting seeds of sadness in their land

Wait! Don’t let the spring, the clearness of the sky or the light of dawn fool you…
Because the darkness, the thunder’s rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you…
from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash…
and he who grows thorns reaps wounds

Look there, for you have harvested the heads of mankind and the flowers of hope, and have watered the heart of the earth with blood
Soaked it with tears until it was drunk
The river of blood will sweep you away
The fiery storm will devour you


Abul Qasim Al-Shabbi, Tunisian Poet

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