The Question of Syria - Syria Are

Oslo, Norway. 29 Sept - 1 Oct 2016

The Question of Syria


Last year, SPACE organized The Question of Syria engaging Norwegians in the struggle of Syrians through panels that focused on the political situation, civil society activism, as well as artistic and cultural practices.

This year, the unprecedented scale of violence, the military intervention by Russia as well as the diplomatic stalemate have seriously compromised the chances of the Syrian people in achieving their rightful ambitions to live in a democratic Syria.

Syrians today are around the world, feeling increasingly isolated and cut off from the social and family networks that any society usually has.

Today there is no longer one Syria with one meaning. We use the title “Syria are …” to reflect the multiple “Syrias” being created everyday.

Who are Syrians, and what do they want, and what are they doing?

We invite you to engage with our participants in this three-day event to try to address these basic questions in an attempt to come to terms with the level of destruction that scorches through Syria.

Schedule


September 29, 2016
5:00pm - 6:00pm
Syria: between political catastrophe and cultural resilience
Karam Nachar - Moderator: Rana Issa
Venue: Nedjma, Litteraturhuset

While the Syrian war seems to embody all that is complex, alien, and thus incomprehensible about the Middle East, the five-year-old brutal conflict can in fact be explained through a set of global historical factors that emanate from the world made by Europe in the wake of World War One. This talk will shed light on some of these global factors and their local manifestations, all while emphasising their inherently contradictory nature: destabilising Syrian politics to the point of disaster, while generating much cultural angst and productivity.

6:30pm - 8:00pm
Misreading Syria: Sectarian Secularism
Thomas Pierret, Bjørn Olav Utvik, Marcell Shehwaro - Moderator: Bendik Sørvig
Venue: Nedjma, Litteraturhuset

Persistent claims that the Syrian regime is “non-sectarian” result from a failure to distinguish between sectarianism as an explicit ideology, and sectarianism as an often unspoken technique of power. Whereas the Assad family has generally purported to act in the name of “national unity”, and accordingly minimised discursive expressions of sectarianism, its actual practices throughout the last five decades have consisted in the systematic manipulation of sectarian divides for the purpose of regime survival.

September 30, 2016
5:00pm - 6:15pm
Keynote speech
Mazen Darwish. - Moderator: Åsne Seierstad
Venue: Litteraturhuset, Wergeland

Mazen Darwish, one of Syria's most prominent human rights activists, will give a speech about his experience in Syria before and after the revolution as a human rights advocate. Afterwards, Darwish will be interviewed by the Norwegian journalist and author Åsne Seierstad.

6:30pm - 8:00pm
Syria International?
Robin Yassin-Kassab, Leila Al Shami, Bendik Sørvig - Moderator: Bissan Fakih
Venue: Litteraturhuset, Wergeland

The idea of a Syria International intends to refocus attention on the agency of Syrians in their struggle and consequently to demand international solidarity and acknowledgement of their rightful and just cause.

This panel assesses the isolation of Syrian civilians by identifying those who neglect them, as well as those rare people who are determined to support them. The intent is on identifying the possibilities for building on existing Syria International solidarity movements around the world, as well as on questioning the extent to which humanitarian and political efforts to support Syria’s civilian population can be improved and augmented.

October 1, 2016
6:00pm - 10:00pm
A space to think and imagine Syria - live music, lightning talks and visual art performance
Various speakers, Music by Ziad Khawam, Art Performance by Razan Sabbagh
Venue: Ingensteds

The evening will open by so-called “lightning talks” by the different speakers about their work, passion and activism. These talks are meant to inspire us to imagine Syria differently. The audience is invited to use the open space to engage with the speakers, not only to ask questions, but also to debate, tell stories and identify new possibilities. Syrian artist, Razan Sabbagh will afterwards have a visual arts performance with some action painting, fused to the music of the Qanun player Ziad Khawam. The vibrant space counts on your interaction through shared reflections, conversations and live music.

Speakers


  • Marcell

    Marcell Shehwaro

    Executive Manager — Kesh Malek

    mazen-darwish

    Mazen Darwish

    President — Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression

    karam-nachar-1

    Karam Nachar

    Lecturer — Işık University, Istanbul

  • RobinYassinKassabBio-1

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    Author

    Thomas_Pierret

    Thomas Pierret

    Lecturer in Contemporary Islam — University of Edinburgh

    boutvik

    Bjørn Olav Utvik

    Professor of Middle East Studies — University of Oslo

  • bendik

    Bendik Sørvig

    Author and humanitarian worker

    female-silhouette

    Leila Al Shami

    Author and activist

    bissan-fakih

    Bissan Fakih

    Deputy Campaign Director — The Syria Campaign

Marcell
Marcell Shehwaro
Executive Manager — Kesh Malek
Marcell Shehwaro is Director of Kesh Malek; a Syrian grassroots organization. The organization has over 300 staff working in northern Syria. Marcell is a renowned activist who was at the forefront of the peaceful protests since the outbreak of the uprising in 2011. She lived in the opposition-controlled Aleppo neighborhoods for almost two years before she had to flee to Turkey. Based in Gaziantep, she keeps a strong contact with the activists and aid workers who are still in her home city, Aleppo. Shehwaro has participated in various key conferences about civil society, justice and activism in Syria.
mazen-darwish
Mazen Darwish
President — Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Mazen Darwish is a Syrian lawyer and free speech advocate, and the president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), founded in 2004. In 2011, Darwish established Media Club, the first Syrian magazine about media affairs. News organizations including Reuters and the Associated Press have described him as one of Syria's most prominent activists. Mr Darwish was in prison in Syria from 2012 to 2015. In 2015, he was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize on World Press Freedom Day.
karam-nachar-1
Karam Nachar
Lecturer — Işık University, Istanbul
Karam S. Nachar is the executive director of AlJumhuriya.net, an online magazine that covers Syrian politics and culture. He is also a Lecturer at the Department of International Relations at Isik University, Istanbul. Prior to assuming these two positions, Nachar worked on a PhD in Modern History at Princeton University, with focus on Cultural and Intellectual History of Modern Syria and Lebanon. He also holds in a Masters in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford University, and B.A. in Political Science from the American University of Beirut.
RobinYassinKassabBio-1
Robin Yassin-Kassab
Author
Robin Yassin-Kassab is co-author with Leila al-Shami of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War. He is also the author of the novel The Road from Damascus. He co-edits www.pulsemedia.org, a collaborative political weblog featuring work by a variety of writers, activists and academics based in five continents. He maintains a blog, where he writes about the situation in Syria, and the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East www.qunfuz.com.
Thomas_Pierret
Thomas Pierret
Lecturer in Contemporary Islam — University of Edinburgh
Thomas Pierret is a Lecturer in Contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh.  He earned his PhD in Political sciences at Sciences Po Paris and the University of Louvain, and he occupied postdoctoral positions at Princeton University and the Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin.  He is the author of Religion and State in Syria. The Sunni Ulama from Coup to Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
boutvik
Bjørn Olav Utvik
Professor of Middle East Studies — University of Oslo
Bjørn Olav Utvik is Professor of Middle East Studies and Head of the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo.
bendik
Bendik Sørvig
Author and humanitarian worker
Bendik Sørvig is the author of a book on the Syrian uprising which will be published in Norwegian in early 2017. His professional experience covers journalism, development work and humanitarian aid in Syria and the Middle East throughout the last two decades.
female-silhouette
Leila Al Shami
Author and activist
Leila Al Shami is a blogger and activist who has worked with the human rights movement in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. She was a founding member of Tahrir­ICN, a network that connects anti­-authoritarian struggles across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Leila is the co­-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War.
bissan-fakih
Bissan Fakih
Deputy Campaign Director — The Syria Campaign
Bissan Fakih is the Deputy Campaign Director of The Syria Campaign where she runs campaigns related to the protection of civilians in Syria. Her work has focused on breaking the sieges, supporting the White Helmets and elevating the voices of civilians in Syria trapped between Isis and Assad.

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SPACE| Readings

On September 29, Marcell Shehwaro, Thomas Pierret and Bjørn Olav Utvik will speak on a panel titled 'Misreading Syria: Sectarian Secularism'. We have collected a few articles which are relevant to the topic of this panel. We do recommend these articles to better understand the nature of the Assad state and the Syrian conflict today.

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SPACE| Past events

In September 2015, the Syrian Peace Action Centre (SPACE) organized ‘The Question of Syria’ — a three-day event of panel discussions and film screenings about resistance, art and revolution in Syria, introducing the works of Syrian artists, intellectuals and cultural actors. The Question of Syria tried to explain the Syrian cause in a common cultural language that demystifies the increasingly complex political landscape through highlighting underreported alternative narratives of the struggle, closer to the aspirations of the Syrian people. The overarching messages of this event were to portray the ongoing, multifaceted Syrian uprising, to introduce the alternative democratic forces in Syria and to provide a forum for interested public in Norway to engage in and reflect on the Question of Syria.

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