Back to the real world- at the Syria Are... conference

So.... we're back!!!! After one week in a beautiful Balestrand and few productive days in Bergen, we are in Oslo again.

Balestrand is this absolutely breathtaking village on the main Sognefjord that you should definitely visit if you ever have a chance. It literally felt like living in a postcard- the views were absolutely breathtaking!  We were there at the EVS on arrival seminar which was described in depth last year by Laetitia and Emi- please have a look at their blog post (and beautiful pictures here). Our experience was very similar- it's one week filled with activities, amazing food, interesting people and beautiful surroundings- very stimulating and inspiring environment!

Coming back to the 'real life' was not easy, but I decided to not give in to grey monotony of everyday life (of course I'm being over-dramatic but you have to understand that leaving possibly the most beautiful place on Earth was not easy!) and remember what I promised to myself in Balestrand- to make the most of this year and get every opportunity to learn more and contribute. And the occasion to do so came earlier than I'd expected it would- through Facebook I found out about event called Syria Are...-The Question of Syria that was organised by SPACE (Syrian Peace Action Centre) in Oslo between 29th of September and 1st of October.

I have to be honest with you - coming into this three-day long conference I did not know much more about Syria and the current situation then what I could get from the news delivered by main stream media. I really hoped that I could learn and understand more and I definitely wasn't disappointed.

The organisers managed to get a line up of truly inspiring speakers. The conference was opened by Karam Nachar, a historian but also founder and executive director of  Aljumhuriya, an online magazine that covers Syrian politics and culture, but also encourages and trains young people from Syria to write and discuss about topics that understandably are very difficult. Karam gave a great insight into the history and reasons behind the current situation in Syria.

Other speakers who definitely stood out were amazing activists who gave an account of their own experiences, like Mazen Darwish who is a Syrian lawyer and free speech advocate who was in prison in Syria from 2012 to 2015.  For me, the most inspiring person presenting at the conference was definitely Marcell Shehwaro. She's an activist, blogger and the director of Kesh Malek; a Syrian grassroots organisation. She was extremely honest about her personal experiences and struggles she has to overcome on a daily basis- the things she was sharing for most of us are difficult to even imagine, but she still manages to inspire others. I would strongly encourage you to have a look at some of her articles that you can find here.

I also found the speech of Mohammed Al-Saud, co-founder of the Young Republic, extremely interesting- he was talking about taking a new approach to refugees' situation and growing Syrian diaspora and that we should talk more about social inclusion, not integration. You can find our more about the project he runs on their Facebook page.

I am so glad that got a chance to attend this conference. I felt privileged to be able to listen to these amazing and heroic people who with such a courage decided to share their experiences and I truly thank them for it. The Syrian situation is extremely difficult and we cannot even imagine what Syrians are going through. I think it's shameful that on top of that, instead of receiving full support and solidarity, they still have to explain themselves and fight with the prejudice. I believe it's our responsibility to learn as much as we can about their situation and what we can do to help them, especially if we have a chance to listen to first hand accounts of the conflict. I strongly encourage you to seek out the kind of events that would give you this opportunity, but also to be critical of what information you receive and look for sources that actually include and give voice to Syrians. Definitely have a look at The Syria Campaign and if you're on Netflix, watch  the White Helmets- great documentary about Syrian volunteers saving lives every day.

We will try to keep you updated on similar events happening in Oslo and if you hear about anything, give us a shout! Let's not let opportunities like that slip away!


To finish up on a positive note, I present you with this picture of a neon we saw in Bergen- it's so true, right? We're off to Bergen again next week to run a project with a beautiful Kompaz team- stay tuned!


Written by Alina