‘Alles Goed?’ a typical Dutch question written in Arabic letters. A project with designers working closely together on the successful Dutch exhibition El Hema shows not only the power of creation when cultures cooperate. It is also a wink to the past as the Arabic lettering from the Syrian town Ugarit, often called ‘the oldest alphabet of the world; 1400 B.C.’ forms the base of our English alphabet, connecting East and West once more. In Dutch the words ‘Alles Goed?’ mean to ask if everything is right. Though read from right to left in Arabic the letters don’t mean anything and probably will create confusion amongst Arabic readers. ‘Alles Goed? All Right?’ If we look at the people of Syria the unfortunate answer is: No.
The devastating effects of war continue to spread within and around Syria. “Precisely when Syrians have become most vulnerable they may have no way of getting out or getting help,” writes Andrew Spath. The Syrian refugees are scattering across the world and there are 4,5 million refugees internally displaced within Syria. The blog ‘Syrian Refugees: The Catastrophe’, offers another revealing insight into the effects of war on the everyday life of Syrian refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees already warned half a year ago: ‘The Syrian civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war. The modern boundaries of the Middle East and the post-Ottoman agreements of the Sykes Picot treaty in 1916 that underpin them may unravel if the crisis is not brought to an end.’
International players are looking for a way forward, though the process is painfully slow and people are wondering what the real power play is behind the scenes. ‘In May Russia and the United States already agreed to try to hold a “Geneva II” conference to implement the agreement, which called for a transitional governing authority to rule Syria. However it left the question open of whether or not Assad must leave power. After the devastating chemical attacks in Syria in Al Ghouta the US pressure on Syria mounted.
Russia answered the US with a carefully timed ‘you-can-only-do-this-once’ op-ed from Putin in the New York Times published on September the 11th. ‘A plea for caution from Russia’: ‘RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.’ Not only has Putins’ plea been well read and commented on more than 4447 times. It seems to have had an impact, moving from ‘wartalk’ towards ‘rapprochement’.
Or was it Kerry just accidently finding a workable solution for Syria? Since his ultimatum beginning of September renewed peacekeeping attempts. Together with Putins op-ed intervention international players seem to walk a path of dialogue in organizing the long delayed peace conference on Syria involving all parties including Iran. The United States and Iran have recently started something of a diplomatic rapprochement. On September 27th President Barack Obama spoke to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, by telephone- the highest level contact since 1979.
Alles goed? All Right? Painting the Syrian picture in more than black and white. In the midst of all the pain and power struggles, it remains equally important to keep shedding light on promising developments. Governments, companies and local communities inside and outside of Syria are taking hopefull initiatives to counterbalance the strategic political processes working from different starting points at different levels.
IKEA announced teaming up with the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) to develop a flatpack shelter that can be quickly assembled on site. Recently 50 prototypes, all packed into standard Ikea cardboard boxes were shipped to refugee camps and crisis regions in Syria.
Humanity House in The Hague organized an evening to discuss: “What you can do? The Enigma of Syria.” An evening with Arabic poetry, music, and practical initiatives with a different angle of support. Moving from stories about the resilience of Syrian Refugees in Jordan to a live Skype connection with Syrian students who followed a Summerschool in Turkey who explained what kind of help they need, to an explaination about Syrian Accountability and Transnational Justice and the importance of documenting the truth through different glasses in Syria. Closing with the Solar for Syria campaign that will start November 25th that will help refugees to light their homes with a solar lamp that enables them to also connect with their families as the lamp is able to recharge mobile phones.
Another hopeful development within Syria itself is how the residents of the Syrian town Yabroud have established an independent government that manages everything from schools, the court and emergency services to humanitarian aid and defense. It is remarkably efficient – as long as they can keep al-Qaeda out. And they do! This is something that is important to shed light upon. It is part of a larger movement within Syria under the name of Khalil Noe, the Mussalah-Reconciliation movement. The walk of peace is alive.
Alles goed? Not everything yet much more than we shed light to!