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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Syria's 'shattered beauty'

One of the pieces of art at the Syria Relief art exhibition, 'Shattered Beauty' in aid of the humanitarian crisis in Syria
The humanitarian crisis continues and escalates in Syria, with unspeakable hardship being suffered and cruelty being inflicted on innocent citizens.

I visited Syria as late as February 2011, just before the uprising happened, and I don't think I've so appreciated getting back to the UK, and what freedom and democracy actually means. We were of course constantly closely watched and monitored  and for some of the time driven about by the Syrian regime, who were anxious we should see all the 'right' things.

What they couldn't hide from us, in the blacked-out black cars that sped through the streets of Damascus with disdain for the citizens in the roads, an old man crossing, or for traffic lights, was the look of dread and fear on the faces of the people as the cars approached, and the look of fear and hatred on their faces as the cars passed and they thought they were out of sight. Loathing was palpable in the air.

Depiction of the regime, coming like inhuman shadows, bats in the night, anonymously to take people away.
We went to the British Council, and met with some frightened and angry young people. Once the drivers of the black cars were not in sight, one described the British Council as their 'bubble of oxygen' -the only place where they could think and talk freely; and discussed the dangers of going on facebook and sharing what life was really like in Syria. I am not sure what has happened to all those bright and vibrant young people now. I won't forget that meeting as long as I live.



Events of the last year have been all the more poignant because the Syrian people are so vibrant, cultured and full of life, and Damascus and the rest of Syria so beautiful. 

One effort to raise money for those in distress is the 'Shattered Beauty' exhibition of Syrian art in London, organised by SYRIA RELIEF, which also helps Syrian artists, and their families and helps save the art from destruction, which depicts the realities of the regime and the struggle.

If you want a good blog on which to follow events, try Robin Yassin-Kassab's excellent Qunfuz blog  (Qunfuz is Arabic for 'hedgehog, by the way.)

The West cannot turn its back as this country is torn apart in the most brutal way. The humanitarian crisis is diabolical, and hitting the most vulnerable and innocent - and with winter approaching, things will only get harder.

If you can, please donate.