The Question of Syria

Doomed by Hope

Doomed by Hope

The Syrian Peace Action Centre (SPACE) welcomes you to the fourth edition of its annual conference The Question of Syria.

The Question of Syria 2018 – Doomed by Hope takes its cue from the famous last line of Saadallah Wannous’ speech on World Theater Day (1996): “we are doomed by hope, and what happens today cannot be the end of history.”

During two days of talks, panel discussions and short film screenings, activists, academics, artists and writers will share their reflections on everyday hope as practiced and lived by ordinary people with focus on Syrians and Palestinians.

Talks & Discussions

Talks and discussions by activists, academics, artists and writers on everyday hope as practiced and lived by ordinary people. 11-12 Oct., Litterturhuset.

Reading Circle

A reading circle on solidarity, its meaning and contradictions. 12 Oct., Litteraturhuset

Music

Free concert with Percussionist Simona Abdallah. 12 Oct., Melahuset

PROGRAM

Chronicles of Hope: Syrian Voices on the Past and Future

Just as the Syrian revolution was a triumph of hope over fear, so is the challenge before Syrians today to sustain hope in the face of violence and loss. What can the past eight years teach us about the journey of hope that Syrians have travelled and where this struggle might be heading from here? Wendy Pearlman will probe these questions by sharing selections from interviews that she has conducted with more than 400 displaced Syrians across the Middle East and Europe from 2012 to 2018. Among these will be testimonials from her book, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria, which chronicles the origins and evolution of the Syrian conflict exclusively through the words of ordinary people who have lived and been transformed by its unfolding.

20min

Nedjma

Wedny Pearlman

Wendy Pearlman is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where she also holds the Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professorship and is a Faculty Fellow at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, an MA from Georgetown University, and a BA from Brown University. Her research […]

The Shadow of Oslo is Only Getting Darker

Coming of age during the “peace process,” my trajectory was shaped by the Oslo agreements. Twenty-five years ago, my generation was promised freedom through statehood. What it received was colonialism through peace. Today Gaza is an open-air prison that is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. Trigger-happy Israeli soldiers shoot and kill with impunity. Palestinians have two governments and no state. Palestinian society is shattered, fragmented, and divided. This trajectory marked by false promises raises a nagging question: where does one look for hope while hopeless? With time, I have found it in the least obvious of places: in being a problem, rather than looking for a solution; in the past, rather than in the future.

20min

Nedjma, Litteraturhuset

Nadim Khoury

Nadim Khoury is an Associate Professor II in international studies/ peace & conflict and a former postdoctoral fellow in philosophy at the Arctic University of Norway—University of Tromsø. His pedagogical interests include the history of political theory, nationalism, the politics of memory, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has published on these issues in the European […]

Hope: A Personal Matter. The Syrian Ayyūb (Job) As An Example

In the novel “A Personal Matter”, by the Japanese writer Kenzaburō Ōe, the school teacher called Bird awaits the birth of his baby. His long-awaited son is then born with a brain hernia. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are disturbingly present. The father expects the imminent death of his son who will survive and live long as a "sick hope". The bandages on his son’s head reminds him of Apollinaire when the latter was severely wounded in WWI. Bird does not fulfill his dream of traveling to Africa. In the end of the novel he's given a dictionary as a present. He reads "Hope" in the dedication, and wishes it were "Patience". I’ll talk about the other side of hope: Patience. Prophet Job is said to be born in Hauran, where the Syrian uprising started in 2011. Syrians have been punished since. Has this ongoing punishment led to absurdity or to God? How's their blasphemy? Have they stopped their unanswered calls and prayers? Does the meaning lurk in the waiting?

20min

Nedjma, Litteraturhuset

Golan Haji

Golan Haji is a Syrian-Kurdish poet and translator with a postgraduate degree in pathology. He was born in 1977 in Amouda, a Kurdish town in the north of Syria. He studied medicine at the University of Damascus. He has worked as a translator from English and American literature, and has translated Robert Louis Stevenson’s Scottish […]

The Trajectory of Hope

After their individual talks, Golan Haji, Nadim Khoury and Wendy Pearlman will jointly discuss hope, its meaning and future for Syrians and Palestinians. Rana Issa will moderate the discussion.

40min

Nedjma, Litteraturhuset

Cultivating Hope: A Tribute to Ghouta

In the grand picture, the Syrian story is not one of hope. But many Syrians proved to be agents of hope, in the best and the worst of times. Eastern Ghouta stands out as an embodiment of both hope and despair. The Assad regime besieged Eastern Ghouta for more than five years deploying starvation, denial of healthcare, indiscriminate bombing and use of chemical weapons as strategies to defeat the people and achieve a hollowed military ‘success’. Earlier this year, the regime, supported by Russia, recaptured Ghouta; tens of thousands were forcibly displaced to Northern Syria while others remained, dispossessed and uncertain of what future awaits them. Against all odds, many in Eastern Ghouta continued to resist and create until the last moments, under siege and bombs. Women fought for their space in a militarized and male-dominated public sphere; resisting, creating and mobilizing in social, political and humanitarian fields in the face of oppressive local armed groups and the siege imposed by the regime. Young students trapped in Eastern Ghouta carried their dreams forward by turning to online universities. This is the story of Ghouta: Everyday acts of resistance and creativity carved out hope in the midst of the bleakest picture. A plethora of practices, hopes and dreams; many are shattered, but the uncompromising desire to live continues. In this session we pay tribute to Ghouta and learn how its people managed to cultivate hope. Lubna Kanawati will talk about her personal experience when she lived in Ghouta and her work as part of the organization Women Now for Development. Mahmoud Bwedany, a 21-year-old activist and student from Douma, was one of the last people to be forcibly displaced from Eastern Ghouta. Mahmoud has an incredible story to tell; a story of activism, perseverance and hope. Zoé Beau  (co-founder of the Buzuruna Juzuruna organic farm collective) will share the story of cross-border hope and solidarity by Syrian refugee farmers in Beqaa Valley in Lebanon.

60min

Nedjma, Litteraturhuset

Mahmoud Bwedany

Mahmoud Bwedany is a 21-year-old activist and student from Douma in Eastern Ghouta. He worked as social media manager and campaigner for several campaigns in Syria over the past few years. Mahmoud is now a first year student of computer science at the online university, The University of the People.

Zoé Beau

Zoé Beau is a French sociologist specialized in the preservation of the Mediterranean peasant heritages and more particularly heirloom seeds. She travelled along Mediterranean countries (France, Lebanon, Greece, Tunisia and Palestine) to collect local seeds for rescue by multiplying and redistribution. She is one of the co-founders of Buzuruna Juzuruna.

Lubna Al-Kanawati

Lubna al-Kanawati is a women’s rights activist. She participated in the very early stages of the Syrian revolution in demonstrations for dignity and justice. She later led efforts for humanitarian aid in besieged areas. Observing the deteriorating conditions for women during the war, she dedicated herself to women’s empowerment projects with ‘Women Now for Development’, […]

Solidarity Reading Circle

Drawing on the Palestinian and Syrian experiences, the reading circle aims to discuss some of the following questions: How does solidarity manifest itself in these two interconnected contexts? In an increasingly connected world, what shared values and practices underpin our collective struggles today? How can we initiate an internationalist, inter-sectional, and horizontal solidarity movement extending from the people to the people? What concrete actions can we take to revive the space for a genuine, internationalist solidarity thinking and practice against the tendency of selective and competitive solidarity? Find our more on the Facebook event.

90min

Kjelleren

Ingeborg Moa

Ingeborg Moa works with Norwegian People’s Aid. She lived her childhood and youth in a small town in Norway, but in a family where there were clear notions that it was important to be involved in your own community and also have solidarity with for instance the Palestinian and Afghan people. During a BA in […]

Stranger Tiimes

Stranger times is an attitude to the contemporary that attends to how strangers stay alive outside their usual habitats. It reflects on the figure of the stranger in relation to the politics and temporalities of the contemporary. I define the stranger as a person who is paradoxically liberated yet fixed into tribal and national structures.  I take Syrian strangers as an extreme case of this relation to the contemporary that I term stranger times. Like many other places around the world, Syrians became strangers under pressure from processes of acceleration of production and the eternalization of tyrannical modes of rule. For my arguments, I select Syrian films and textual narratives that depict the stranger in various contexts. As I trace the figure of the stranger in 40 years of Syrian cultural production, I explore how the figure of the stranger apprehends, constructs and organizes the contemporary. Arriving upon inhabited places, the stranger has a past that is unpredictable and unknown to her interlocutors. She intrudes, is out of synch, like a freshly born infant that has not yet learned the times of day. The strangers that I examine survive through intrusions into a market and political sphere that has no place for them. Some translate, others communicate by other means. All accelerate their step, and seek to acquire a new past and a new language that can root them in this new environment.

60min

Kjelleren, Litteraturhuset

Rana Issa

She is an Assistant Professor in Translation Studies at the Department of English and is affiliated with the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages. She holds a PhD from the University of Oslo. Her doctoral work on the Bible explores how translation emerged as a tool of synchronization in the nineteenth century. She has […]

Concert with Simona Abdallah

SPACE and Mela invite you to a special concert with the internationally-acclaimed percussionist Simona Abdallah concluding The Question of Syria - Doomed by Hope conference. Simona plays Arabic percussion, primarily the Darbuka, a goblet-shaped drum. She fuses her ancestral Arabic rhythms with House, Electronica and World music. The Darbuka is considered solely a masculine instrument, and is traditionally always played by men. That makes Simona the first female musician from an Arabic background to break the tradition with an internationally acclaimed success to follow. Join us to listen to Simona's rhythms as well as reflections on her experience in a short talk before the concert! Invite your friends on Facebook!

45min

Melahuset

Simona Abdallah

Percussionist Simona Abdallah was born 1979 in Germany, where her Palestinian parents escaped to from Lebanon. Later on the family moved to Denmark, where Simona spend her childhood in Denmark’s second largest city, the windy port town of Aarhus. Simona plays Arabic percussion, primarily the Darbuka, a goblet-shaped drum. She fuses her ancestral Arabic rhythms with […]

Freedom to Remember/Create – Oslo World Seminars

Syrian artists Khaled Barakeh and Diala Brisly will discuss their artistic practices and processes, what it means to create within contexts of oppression and exile; physically dispersed yet under a shared collective experience. They will also discuss contemporary artistic expression by other Syrian artists in the Middle East, across the diaspora and from those who have recently relocated to new realities. How do the arts preserve cultural heritage? What narratives do they create? How do the arts and creative sector contribute to healing and rebuilding a nation?   3 November 2018. 14:00

120min

Kulturhuset

Mapping Home – Oslo World Workshop

Maps have been extensively used to tell stories and to show how the stories relate to a place. Equally, narratives have contributed to the shaping and production of a place. How do we make sense of a place that we no longer can visit? What places do we remember and long for? What narratives live in these places and what can they tell about us and about “home”? How do we begin to discover and become acquainted with a new place? What invisible boundaries do we draw as we settle in our new destination? Welcome to this free workshop facilitated by Syrian artist Diala Brisly, who will navigate our spatial memories and take us through the journey to discover, map and narrate a place called home. This workshop is a part of Oslo World & Station Beirut: NextStopDamascus, a Syrian takeover at Kulturhuset. In collaboration with Oslo World Music. 3 November 2018. 16:00

60min

Kulturhuset

Let’s Talk About Images

Meet Syrian artist Khaled Barakeh and Norwegian storyteller Terje Abusdal in conversation with UiO’s PhD candidate Sara Rundgren Yazdani about crafting images and redefining identity in zones dominated by a mass media representation and territories of conflict. The talk will explore topics such as: in this current overwhelming torrent of images, can we discern ‘artistic approaches’ to this new image environment, to world events, and to history in general? Is art an antidote to this one-way street image production, or capable only to document the scars which are left behind? And is the role of art to humanize the violence of the imagery we are subjected to, or to instead shape different ways of seeing? In collaboration with Fotogalleriet. 1 November 2018. 19:00

90min

Fotogalleriet

SPEAKERS

Wedny Pearlman
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Wedny Pearlman

Northwestern University

Golan Haji
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Golan Haji

Nadim Khoury
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Nadim Khoury

Bjørknes Høyskole

Lubna Al-Kanawati
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Lubna Al-Kanawati

Women Now for Development

Simona Abdallah
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Simona Abdallah

Rana Issa
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Rana Issa

American University of Beirut

Zoé Beau
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Zoé Beau

Bouzourna Jouzourna

Ingeborg Moa
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Ingeborg Moa

Mahmoud Bwedany
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Mahmoud Bwedany

DOOMED BY HOPE

The Syrian Peace Action Centre (SPACE) has been working since early 2015 to diversify and enrich the discussion about Syria, primarily through giving space to many underrepresented Syrian voices, broadening the set of questions and topics normally associated with Syria and emphasizing the role of democratic actors among the Syrian civil society and intellectual sphere. Looking at the past three years, SPACE contributed to portraying a nuanced and informed picture of Syria in Norway, most notably through our yearly conference The Question of Syria. Alas, since the first edition in 2015 and against our cautious ambitions to work towards a better Syria, the situation in Syria has been only getting worse, on all fronts, not the least, the humanitarian and political ones. Most regrettably, Syrians realize today that their collective and individual agency have diminished through the last few years, and they have become increasingly sidelined on any decision pertaining to their reality or future of their country.  

This led to increased cynicism and hopelessness in Syria and worldwide—not a surprising result given the retreat, globally, of democratic values and particularly, the bleak prospects of justice, peace and prosperity in Syria and the Middle East region. The deferred quest for justice in the face of endless streams of witnesses and testimonies challenges the core of our universal, unanimous understanding of human rights.

Against this sweeping feelings of helplessness and fear, we, at SPACE, can only be motivated to further seek hope in mounting layers of despair. The Question of Syria in 2018 takes its cue from the famous last line of the speech of one of Syria’s leading playwright Saadallah Wannous, delivered on World Theatre Day (1996), that “we are doomed by hope, and what happens today cannot be the end of history.” We interpret this statement as a call for action, as an untiring alertness to what dynamics of possibility exist to the struggle for justice, in a world that seems increasingly hopeless.

The Syrian quest for a democratic change despite its repeated defeats, and the pessimism surrounding its future nevertheless carries the labor and the stories of many Syrians, and continues to provide lessons of inspiration to anyone who believes in human rights and freedom.

Over the past three years, SPACE has organized and participated in almost thirty events related to Syria in Norway and Europe, and we are often surprised and grateful for the level of engagement we encounter. Through our dedicated focus on Syrian civil society and Syrian culture, we hope we have been able to nuance the reductive and apolitical media image of Syria as a place of perpetual and incomprehensible violence. It is with this spirit that The Question of Syria in 2018 will pose the question of hope.

Watch The Question of Syria talks from 2015, 2016 and 2017!

2015

2016

2017

The Question of Syria 2018 is sponsored by the Fritt Ord Foundation

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melahuset

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SPACE | Syrian Peace Action Centre