Aswat Faeela Closing Event
Syria’s ongoing conflict has left the country and its people scattered and shattered, with over 11 million refugees all over Europe and the Middle East. This creates many challenges and gaps. Geographically dispersed, how do Syrians stay connected to each other and to their identities? Fled due to war, how do they create a new life in a new country? Aswat Faeela (Active Voices) gathers young Syrians and committed citizens from their host communities to tackle these problems, together. After two and a half years of collaboration, dedication and unification, this group of young people officially closed of the program this month, May 2018.
Member of the audience checking the photo exhibition on the second day of the closing event at Beit Beirut © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela
Bringing together likeminded people is the first step to create a change. Aswat Faeela (Active Voices) aims to create a network of people that crosses borders and differences. As a network, it focuses on building a framework of change from the bottom up. It was the young people themselves that are empowered through professional trainings to decide what they feel is necessary to advocate for. It builds on the skills of young people from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and diaspora in Europe to influence positive change in their communities, based on what they and their communities feel is needed. Regularly, this geographically dispersed network comes together, to join forces, brainstorm, share ideas for action and re-connect. The last of these official gatherings was this May during the closing event.
The closing event comprised of two days. The first day was the final workshop, where all young people came together for one last time, to discuss their achievements, memories and decide on steps to take in the future. Hanan, from Lebanon, as a relatively new member to the group, shares: “The best memory I have is today, meeting people from Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Europe. I met people with different ideas and experiences, people who are different than me but similar all at once. Because there was a common factor that gathered us today, to continue to work on creating a positive change in our communities.”
Co-founder of Globally Connected, Abir Hajj Ibrahim, talking about the importance of connecting Syrians everywhere © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela
On the second day was the official closing event, with all young activists and representatives from local and international institutions including Mrs. Tosca Barucco, EU charge d’affaires for Syria. Keynotes speeches and two focused panels discussed the vital role of youth in advocacy, peacebuilding and in general the activities Aswat Faeela has completed. As a roundup of the project, there was a photo-exhibition of the people of the project, and the documentary film “Longing” had its official premiere, showing all the young people engaged in the project, their stories, achievements and dreams. It was a celebration of the work that had already been done, and for many, an inspiration to do even more.
Syria programme manager from International Alert Caroline Brooks opening the second panel on youth lead advocacy © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela
What started off as a project with only 34 young people engaged, has grown to a network of over 450 young people in these two and a half years. They have held many focus groups, questionnaires and interviews with the people in their respective communities to find out what it is that they can do for Syrians in their communities. In Lebanon, for example, as one of the many activities that were held, they opened a learning center and center for arts and culture in a disadvantaged community. As another example, in Turkey, they supported children without education who often turned to violence, and managed to encourage many of them to go back to school. And in all countries, they focused on strengthening the relationship between Syrians and the people of the host communities, in order to create a safe place for everyone to feel at home.
Team leader at British Council, Fatme Masri opening the first panel on the role of youth in peacebuilding © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela
As Syrians are scattered all over the world, Aswat Faeela also aimed to strengthen the relationship between Syrians, wherever they may reside.
As a fragmented society, it’s important to find ways to reconnect. Zafar, a Syrian Master Facilitator and currently living in Turkey, says: “Many people expressed that during the sessions, their sense of belonging to Syria was revived. They feel that when they are within a group that believes in the change they are bringing to society, they will be able to carry on with the change.” Zafar feels the same way, which means for him that the project never ends. He says: “The project may have officially ended, but there is this saying that I think applies. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. This project will form the beginning of the next stage. We will carry on the change.”
Due to the war, many Syrians had to leave their homes, their families and their safe place. These are some of the most essential things to build a life; the sense of feeling safe, of feeling at home, supported and loved. It is through Aswat Faeela that these young people got a chance to recreate this for themselves. They worked together with the host communities to create a safe place for them to feel at home. They created a network of Syrians and committed citizens to become like a family. And in doing so, they created a new, temporary, home. Holding onto this network, these new skills and this sense of activism, will ensure them they have something they can offer when they go back to Syria, and build up their old home.
Aswat Faeela participants celebrating two years and a half of commitment and engagement © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela
Aswat Faeela documentary, “Longing”, debuted at the closing events © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela
European Union charge d’affaires for Syria Mrs. Tosca Barucco opening the closing event © Zita Luiten/Aswat Faeela