Syria’s arts and culture before and after 2011

Panel Discussion: Insights from Contributors to Syria Speaks

@Khalil Younes
Khalil’s work is featured in Parallel Republic exhibition and Syria Speaks, part of Celebrating Syria Festival


What happened to the arts and to culture under the dictatorship of the Assad regimes?

What does oppression do to artistic and creative expression?

Since the revolution in 2011 and the fall of the ‘walls of fear’ the creative spirit of the Syrian people has unleashed hidden talents.  This panel discussion explores the idea of the Syrian revolution as a form of self-expression that has inspired a collage of artistic statements which, in turn, have influenced the face of the revolution. 

The panel imaginatively questions whether the Syrian Revolution, in its essence, is a form of art after decades of silence and stagnation.  



Zaher Omareen is a Syrian writer, journalist and filmmaker based in London. He has worked on independent cultural initiatives in Syria and Europe and co-curated exhibitions on the art of the Syrian uprising. His short stories have appeared in Words Without Borders and the Massachusetts Review.  He co-edited and contributed to Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014) and is currently working on a collection of short stories on the 1982 Hama massacre.





Rasha Abbas is a Syrian journalist and writer based in Berlin. In 2008, she published Adam Hates the Television, and was awarded the young writers prize at the Damascus Capital of Arab Culture Festival. In 2013 she co-wrote the script for a short film, Happiness and Bliss. She is also a contributor to Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. She is currently writing a collection of short stories, entitled The Gist of It while completing the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Fellowship in Stuttgart.


Malu Halasa is a Jordanian Filipina American writer, editor and curator based in London. She graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University. Her books include: Syria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline (co-ed) (2014); Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations (2009); The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design (2008) and Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance (2002).





Alessandro Columbu: Alessandro obtained his MA in Arabic Literature from the University of Bologna, Italy. He has studied at several academic institutions including Universities of Barcelona, Damascus and SOAS.  His translation of the eminent Syrian short story writer Zakaria Tamer’s book Taksir Rukabis is the first Arabic book to have been translated into Sardinian. Alessandro teaches Arabic at Manchester and Salford Universities while completing his PhD on the work of Zakaria Tamer.




Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014)

“In Syria, culture has become a critical line of defence against tyranny.

Syria Speaks is a celebration of a people determined to reclaim their dignity, freedom and self-expression. It showcases the work of over fifty artists and writers who are challenging the culture of violence in Syria. Their literature, poems and songs, cartoons, political posters and photographs document and interpret the momentous
changes that have shifted the frame of reality so drastically in Syria.

Moving and inspiring, Syria Speaks is a testament to the courage, creativity and imagination of the Syrian people. A unique anthology providing a window into Syrian art and writing since the uprising.” (


Copies of Syria Speaks will be on sale throughout the Festival.





Tue 11/07/2017

19:00 – 20:45

 Friends’ meeting house (Main Hall)

6 Mount St
M2 5NS
United Kingdom

£5/ £3 / Free for refugees and asylum seekers

Or get you season ticket for £60 to attend all festival events

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