Syria and Silence - Collaboration and Commemoration

Silhouette of two children pointing Syria (highlighted in red) on a globe

We weren't doing and still are not doing enough

Please scroll to the bottom of this article to watch a recording of the event in full.

On the 15th March 2021, people from all different paths in life took a minute of silence to 'remember all the people and hold them in the light who are affected in one way or the other by the war in Syria'. This marked the beginnging of a discussion of the war in Syria, which has lasted a decade.  

The event was introduced and chaired by Syria and Silence Project creator Dr Suzan Meryem Rosita Kalayci (Calouste Gulbenkian Fellow at the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford and College Chaplain at St Hilda’s College Oxford.)

The Syria and Silence Project was created in response to the silence surrounding the war in Syria where a peaceful uprising against the Syrian regime ten years ago turned into a humanitarian catastrophe. Syria and Silence is reaching out to the diasporic and local Syrian migrant communities living in Oxford, the UK and elsewhere, to give them a platform to express themselves.

Pulling together a thought provoking panel of discussants, Dr Kalayci asked each panellist:

  • Where were you and what were you doing when you realised that Syria had turned from demonstrations to war/conflict?
  • What do you want to happen now and how do you want people to engage with the situation?

The panellists shared their own interactions with this war, whether directly or indirectly, and shone a light on the various ways to become involved in working with Syrian refugees. 

A powerful session, with an extraordinary panel of voices and perspectives. It brought the human dimension very much to the fore but was also practical … - Willem Kuyken

The panel included:

Arwa Omaren is a Palestinian actor born in Yarmouk, Syria. She made a dangerous journey to the UK four years ago. She has performed in a BBC 4 play about Yarmouk last summer and is slated to start filming a TV series about the conflict. Arwa is currently working as a support carer in London.

Hannah Feldman runs the Sponsor Refugees, a community sponsorship programme with Citizens UK. This organisation is the largest charity supporting groups of volunteers to welcome refugees and advocating for Community Sponsorship as a model for integrating new arrivals into British society.

Wesam Asali is an architect and researcher at the University of Cambridge who is investigating craft and natural materials for sustainable construction. He is co-founder of IWlab (Damascus-Cambridge) and CERCAA school of construction in Valencia, Spain.

Amanda Waggot and Anthony Biggs are creative directors of The Playground Theatre in London and are working with Syrian Voices to develop a play around conflict, diaspora and new beginnings in the UK.

Abdurahman is 24 and comes from Aleppo. He came to London 5 years ago with his family speaking no English. Now he works as a supervisor at Poundland and volunteers with refugees. He has set up his own you tube channel, Bayt UK. You can watch a short video about him here.

Mehreen Saigol is one of the co-ordinators of Syrian Voices, a video archive project documenting the experiences of Syrians who have come to the UK as a result of the conflict. She has directed current affairs and history documentaries for TV and is also the chair of a refugee community group resettling Syrian families in London.

Angela Flynn is currently working on a new oral history project entitled Syrian Voices and co-convenes the TORCH/Stanford House seminar series entitled Conversations on Identity, Ethnicity and Nationhood alongside Dr Elisabeth Bolorinos Allard.

Neil Stevenson is the Public Engagement Manager (maternity cover) at the Bodleian Libraries. After completing a Masters degree in Landscape Archaeology at Bristol University he began a career working in the museum and heritage sector, focusing on learning and engagement. He is Public Engagement lead for the Syria and Silence pop-up library.

Nuha Abdo is a sociologist from Syria who worked with Danish Refugee Council in Damascus for 3 years before coming to the UK in 2016. Since arriving in Oxford she has set up a Syrian women's group (Syrian sisters) and is active in assisting recently arrived Syrian families to settle in the city. Nuha currently works as a Community Ambassador and volunteer support as part of the Multaka Oxford project at the History of Science Museum and Pitt Rivers Museum and also worked for the Refugee Studies Centre as a research assistant.

You can watch the Syria and Silence event here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/FuuQjv_R7ts

Projects mentioned in the conversations were:

Bayt UK: https://observatoryihr.org/campaign/bayt-uk/ 

https://www.cercaa.es/en/home

communitysponsorship@citizensuk.org

https://www.sponsorrefugees.org/

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-to-become-a-university-refugee-sponsortickets-144413822631

https://communitysponsorship.org.uk/events

 

Artwork chosen from the Syrian Museum Series (2013) by Tammam Azzam (courtesy of the artist).