Well into its fourth year, Syria’s on-going conflict has become the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. Whilst violence and extremism are perceived and covered by the media as key features of this conflict, civil society and peaceful means of change have been under-reported. Beyond Assad, ISIS, violence, death and militarization; civil society can and does exist in Syria. Civil society has and continues to play a vital role in contributing to early recovery, increasing resilience and containing violence. However, more needs to be done to support civic work.
An opportunity is the arts and cultural activism that have created its own space – a space calling for democracy and increased freedoms. Another is civil society work on education. As education is being manipulated by dictatorship and extremism (with over one-fifth of schools used for military purposes or as shelters), results are devastating. Syrian students are left without education, vulnerable to violence and radicalization, early marriage, child labor, rape, torture and arming, thus risking a “lost generation”. Time lost in supporting Syrians’ education is measured with years of losses to violence at the national, regional and global level. The best time to act has already passed; the next best time is NOW. Stand for Syria!
“Stand for Syria Arts Festival” is a weeks’ arts event on Syria in Scotland that envisions creating stronger awareness in Scotland of the Syrian civil society’s peaceful and civic struggle amongst all the violence. Spanning across movies, music, graffiti and arts exhibitions, this event also seeks to fundraise for the education of Syria refugees in Lebanon. Through film screenings, some of which will be followed by panel discussions, civil society activism and the course of events that led to rising violence and extremism will be exposed, thus creating more understanding of the Syrian conflict at the local level. Through hybrid Scottish/Syrian art activities, it will be realized that humans are
one, share common interests and have common needs everywhere, from music to being part of decisions affecting their own lives, thus creating more solidarity. Meanwhile, funds raised will be given to SAWA for Development and Aid NGO in Lebanon, to be used to serve the education of Syrian students there. This shall contribute to saving a lost generation from being victims of authoritarianism and terrorism, to being future agents of peace and positive change.
At the end of the year 2011, Sawa for development and Aid started working as a reaction to the dire gap in fulfilling the needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Sawa was among the first local organizations on the ground, encompassing a big number of individual activists, professionals, students, academics, and businessmen. Those included Syrian, Lebanese, and of diverse nationalities and multiple backgrounds, united by a common aim: that humanitarian relief and development is a matter of social justice, and that it is our responsibility to raise the living standards of Syrian refugees particularly, and the families in need from all nationalities more generally, to the basic standards of a dignified life.
Today, Sawa for Development and Aid works in different areas, including but beyond relief. Our programmes include education, women projects, human rights, and micro loans, among other. All projects have an aim to transform the individual from beneficiary to an independent agent in society