“The project has been created with pioneering Syrian academics and creative writers and poets displaced and dispersed across Turkey, Syria, UK, France and beyond; together, we have built a platform from which they will speak and be heard.”
War, conflict and persecution are stifling academic and creative freedom, threatening researchers’ safety and compromising the future development of countries. Where academics are killed or scattered due to their views, intellectual capital is lost and ruined societies are left unable to rebuild. The School of English’s Dr Bahriye Kemal has been leading an important project together with Syrian academics in this grim situation, alongside Cara (Council for At-Risk Academics), the Royal Society and the British Academy.
The project consists of a large symposium (from Monday 6 December to Friday 10 December) and various cultural events that host over 50 displaced Syrian voices, including leading academics across various disciplines, award winning creative writers, poets and film-makers, ground-breaking charities, and pioneering activist. The mission which brings together such diversity of fields is to give a platform for voices displaced by conflict and to promote the importance of their unique insights and perspectives.
‘The project has been created with pioneering Syrian academics and creative writers and poets displaced and dispersed across Turkey, Syria, UK, France and beyond; together, we have built a platform from which they will speak and be heard,’ says Dr Kemal in the run up to the symposium. ‘In spite of the restrictions resulting from Covid-19 and our dispersed locations, we are able to connect, collaborate and create together within and beyond borders, barriers and dangerous sites without rights.’
Each day of the symposium focuses on a key theme based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The symposium’s sessions are also complemented by unique evening cultural events curated and led by Dr Bahriye Kemal (University of Kent) together with Dr Rida Anis (Assistant Professor of English, Hasan Kalyoncu University, Gaziantep, Turkey), and Hiba Al-Haji (activist, novelist, Civil Society Strengthening Specialist for UNDP, and founder of Syrian Revolutionary Feminists, and Equity and Empowerment Organizatio) including:
- Women Writing Syria: Resilience, Solidarity & Movements (Monday 6 December): An evening with award-winning Syrian women writers, poets & activists. In discussion with Dr Kemal, these women explore the act of writing about lived experiences of displacement, family, social movements, recovery and mental health, and other topics relating to the Syrian conflict. On this session, Dr Kemal says: ‘This promises to be an unforgettable evening with some of the most resilient women of our time. They have used their writing to tell us the truth about what is happening in Syria.’
- Documenting Syria: Health, Space, Activism (Wednesday 8 December): A Conversation with BAFTA award-winning director Waad Al-Kateab and Dr Kemal about the experience of documenting war and violence, accessing public health during conflict, the deconstruction and reconstruction of public and private spaces, and the role of ‘the activist’ during conflict.
PhD student Nidal Ajaj and Dr Tom Parkinson of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education and SRT Migration and Movement Co-Lead, will also be delivering sessions across the week. The symposium, its sessions and its events are free. All are welcome to attend online.
Dr Bahriye Kemal is Lecturer in Contemporary and Postcolonial Literatures in the School of English. Her research encompasses world literature, postcolonial and partition discourse, contemporary migration studies, geopolitical studies and spatial theory. She currently teaches Right/Write to the World: Displacement, Social Movements, Political Action; Places, Journeys and Borders; Contemporary Struggles.