Coffee in a Syrian tent

Yesterday, for the first time in my life I saw Syrians as refugees in a camp. During my years in Syria, I have met many Syrians from different cities, social and religious backgrounds, classes. But even the poorest ones that I used to visit in Damascus` “slums” lived in houses, even if small, even if surrounded by garbage, unfinished buildings, environmental degradation. They had their little private space, always made beautiful, always made warm by them.

It was a shock for me to see Syrians living in camps like this one in the picture, in Lebanon. The irony is that there are people in that camp who come from Yarmouk, which they also call “camp” but it`s not really a camp as we image it. It`s a lively area of Damascus, it`s a neighborhood plenty of shops, markets, mostly inhabited by Palestinian Syrians. Many of them had to leave Yarmouk when it was bombed by the regime. Apparently, they sent  a MIG airplane inside which destroyed buildings and killed many people. Many of those I met yesterday have lost friends or relatives during the bombing, so they have decided to leave immediately. Same stories from other families coming from different Syrian cities, such as Aleppo or Homs.






Now they live in these tents, sometimes ten people in one tent. A shared kitchen and bathrooms are outside. They do everything in these small spaces. And, I dont know how, but at some point they made coffee. All of a sudden, I smelled the beautiful smell of Turkish coffee that I used to drink every day in Syria. There were little cups and spoons, and sweets, too. The family smiled at me, offered coffee, said: “Thank God, we are alive. Eventually we will go back to our country, Syria”.

This is only just another example of the dignity of the Syrian people. I am humbled by people whose first thought is to offer you coffee and welcome you warmly even if they are obliged to live in such a small space, all together. I am humbled by their smiles and by the way they thank God to have preserved their lives, even if they have to live as refugees now.

We have failed the Syrian civil society. We fail them each time we focus our attention only on geo-strategical issues, or when we are obsessed about fears of seeing Islamists ruling a post-Assad Syria. We fail them each time we build scenarios for the future of this country instead of thinking about the present, about what is needed now by this society which is suffering so much.

The fridge is still standing

A friend of mine took this picture in Harasta and gave it to me…



Harasta is a suburb of Damascus` countryside. My dear friend Bassel Safadi, who has now been jailed for more than one year, used to live there. There is no such a thing named Harasta anymore. It has been completely destroyed.

Yet, that fridge is still standing. Like the Syrian people. Against all odds, left alone by Western and Arab governments, public opinion, media. They are still standing. It breaks my heart to see how people outside only care about what`s gonna happen in Syria after the fall of the Assads – whether this materializes the fear of having Islamists seizing power or other sorts of fears -, yet very few care about what`s happening in Syria NOW.

The fridge is still standing. But it`s not because of us.

(I thank so much my anonymous friend for having thought about me and sent this picture)


Creative Syria, la resistenza siriana in mostra a Milano



Domani alle 14. 30 alla Casa del Pane a Porta Venezia a Milano inauguriamo “Creative Syria”, una piccola finestra sulla creativita` siriana che si ispira alle precedenti esperienze fatte  con Culture in Defiance. Continuing traditions of satire, art, and the struggle for freedom in Syria promossa l`anno scorso dalla Prince Claus Fund di Amsterdam e che ho curato insieme a Malu Halasa, Aram Tahhan, Leen Zyiad , e Syria`s art of resistance, sempre curata da noi ed esposta fino al 12 maggio 2013 al Centre for Culture and Development di Copenhagen.

Creative Syria nasce dall’idea di raccontare la società civile siriana e il suo sforzo di resistenza creativa, che oggi viene oscurato, nel racconto dei mass media, da immagini di violenza e distruzione. Fin dal 15 Marzo 2011, inizio delle prime manifestazioni anti-governative in Siria, un’incredibile esplosione di creatività ha riempito le piazze virtuali di Internet e si è riversata nelle strade del paese, accompagnando le proteste in nome di libertà e dignità. Non solo giovani artisti, ma soprattutto semplici cittadini e utenti anonimi hanno voluto esprimere la loro idea di resistenza creativa alternativa alla violenza che riempiva le strade e le piazze siriane.

La mostra cerca di documentare questa creatività presentando un mix di lavori di artisti siriani noti ed emergenti, e opere di autori anonimi, user-generated e diffuse viralmente su Internet.

Il programma della mostra e degli eventi live e` disponibile qui.

Creative Syria e` stata realizzata grazie al sostegno di tutto il meraviglioso team del Festival del Cinema africano, d`Asia e d`America Latina, con cui abbiamo gia` collaborato in precedenti edizioni e che, con grande entusiamo e passione, ha trovato il modo di portare questo pezzetto di Siria creativa in Italia.

Qualche articolo gia` uscito su Creative Syria e` disponibile qui, qui e qui.