We wake up every day; we wake up with every sun rise as we are full of hope believing in better day, in brighter future for us, and for others.
Development, Democracy, Justice, Peace and all what we human being seek to get will always remain dreams, unless we work to get them… unless we learn how to get and how to practice them.
For that we certainly need a high and straight education system, and educational NGOs, we need cultural events to connect us, we need art to reflect our feeling, we need civil activities which all will keep our hopes high, and keep us away of depression.
Together, together we can get our rights; together we can define them, we can shape them, and we of course can have better life’s condition enjoying them.
And this is actually why we are here today, we would like to introduce some of the Syrian initiatives to you, initiatives that where recently born under the stress, under the tough conditions, during the Syrian revolution.
So many initiatives came up in the past two years, a lot of non-violent initiatives about human rights, democracy, art, environment, documentation, women rights, freedom, development, and of course education which will provide people the ability to choose what is best for them.
We would like to promote the immense work and activity of these artists and intellectuals and hope to analyze in dialogue with the guest the meaning and the place of all these movement
We hope to strengthen transition through, education and innovation in a moment when there’s seemingly no way out of a violent turn and Syrians are left alone in a terrible war against dictator.
“Zaytoon” is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political, non-religious organization. The project supports young people from Syria based on the principle of free participation and unbiased engaged learning. The project’s philosophy is to apply all means beneficial to help these young people develop and find a place where they can engage actively in building their future.
Zaytoon does this by helping them building their capacity, improving their skills, their learning abilities and by supporting their own initiatives as following:
It is a center aims to offer different kinds of courses in various disciplines:
Language skills (English, French, Italian), media training (montage, journalism documentation), computer sciences (Photoshop, ICDL), civic activities (first medical aid, health society). In all disciplines we will support new teaching method including an inspiring mix between practice, training which educational activities both cognitive and intuitive, socially and with creative means such as (Draw English, act Italian, cook languages…etc).
Zaytoon’s recreational activities:
Zaytoon is organizing various activities that all aim to first support the recovering of a psychological basis of the youth and children, then to build a network between all of them, as well as it aims to build the capacity of each one to be open to others (concerts, meetings, tours…etc)
Zaytoon will start and support several sorts of civic campaigns that helps the people, society and environment by leading a campaign or participating and supporting other campaigns (such as: cleaning campaigns that took a place in several places in Syria, planting an olive (Zaytoon) tree in Tahreer Square in Cairo in the 10th of November 2012. Collaborations with children drawing.)
Throughout the Syrian revolution artists and performers have played a significant role expressing, showing and documenting the needs of the Syrian citizens. Zaytoon has built a network and documentation of artists and their work. Recognizing the importance of art in the coming change the arts are at the core of Zaytoon’s three areas of activities and is also researching and communicating about the arts as central for building a new social order and supporting the new Syrian culture.
The Syrian people established their independence in 1946; they announced their new state based on the heritage of an ancient civilization. This new state was the Syrian Arab Republic.
Four years after the Independence Syria became its first democratic constitution.
This constitution was considered to be a new experience for a “third world country”, because of its basic principles of respecting individual freedom of speech and human rights.
The Syrian people living according to rules of this constitution experienced a golden age of democracy and freedom and though it has been through some coups (d’état), the democratic and institutional structure of the Syrian state was kept and this was supported by a basic political diversity within Syria.
It was guaranteed by movements to the right and to the left balancing a permanent democratic life under a common national heading ‘No winner, no loser’.
The Syrian political life had been very rich and hectic since the Ottoman rule, where we find many attempts to establish political associations demanding autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. These associations developed into political parties during French mandate and though these parties had different ideologies they worked together to liberate the country.
When Syria reached independence its people lived through a golden era for the first time in the modern age and they had many parties competing with each other under sacred title ‘no winner, no loser’. This political movement had its own influence on civilian society and social life. Young Syrians started to study politics and practice it, they developed into an important power and influenced politicians to care about their point of views. They were leading the public opinion and also the change in the country. They even did a national and popular monitoring which lead them to force the government of Sabri Al-Asali step down in 1954. This movement had a big influence on journalism and the general public as well. The climate in that era was very creative and the democratic development was felt in all areas of life.
Journalism was being practiced freely as the fourth authority and it did all its duties to point to people’s problems and issues of social imbalance.
Syrian women were involved in all activities mentioned above. They were not only playing their roles in the building of society, but also playing an active role on all cultural, political and social levels establishing the new parties and charity organizations.
In 1963 Arab socialistic resurrection party (Baath party) took control in a coup d’état, which was not unusual to the Syrian people, but this time it was a very different coup d’état, because the founders of this party canceled the political life and tried to impose their own ideology and ideas on the state and society. The Baath party had been through a long strife with the other national powers and this had devastating effects to the country later. The partisan name of what happened was called 8th of March Revolution and was accompanied by a massive propaganda campaign where stealing lands and properties without parliamentary support was termed nationalization and factories were taken over and turned into collective ownership of production means.
In 1970 Hafiz AL-Assad who was the minister of defense became a president in a white coup d’état and sent all his comrades who were opposing him to jail where most of them died.
This was the beginning of a black era of the modern Syrian history. The party adopted a plan to destroy Syria. Democratic rule was ignored and no common ground between citizens was nurtured.
At every historical juncture heads rolled and in the end only one strong group ( the Muslims brotherhood ) stayed. At the beginning of 1978 Assad decided declare open war against this group and against any strong group that might threaten him in the future. This era witnessed military trails and an iron fist against all regime opponents. There were hundreds of massacres and genocides against non-regime groups till the end of 1982. Syrians lived long period of darkness and young Syrian became passive. This situation killed the real feeling of citizenship and civic culture, so we had thousands of social diseases not only poverty and corruption but many other problems penetrated in all life details to an extent which couldn’t be repressed.
In 2000 Hafiz AL-Assad died, and his son Bashar took over through referendum, which was seriously doubted as the result was known in advance and its constitution was implemented in 15 minutes. These minutes were enough to kill the belief in a new future. The president came from England where he had been studying medicine, he was full of hope, or at least this is what people thought about him. He made spontaneous visits to the restaurants, theaters and other places in Damascus, to let people see how humble and active he was. But this impression was soon broken, when he adopted a strategy of systemized poverty, sometimes under the pretext of developing and reforming and other times under the pretext of resistance and reluctance.
At the end of the 2010, there was a social movement in Tunisia later called the Arab Spring. The goal of this movement was to step down the regimes which had controlled the Arab countries for a very long time and replace these with new national authorities. The Syrian people was the most obvious to engage in such a movement, however due to the circumstances, it started in Tunisia then Egypt, and eventually reached to Syria on the 18th of March 2011. It started with the now famous story of Daraa’s children (southern City in Syria). In Daraa children were tortured after they had written phrases against the regime on the walls of their school wall (graffiti art), and their families started to protest and eventually came to witness one of the bloodiest revolutions in the modern age.
This revolution still continues today. Since March 2011 Syria has endured all kinds of killing, arresting, homelessness, destruction. And yet the Syrians have faced this with a legendary steadfastness.
Current Basis for Zaytoon in Cairo
The huge number of refugees into the neighboring countries is soaring daily because of the war launched against the civilians and as they could not welcome these huge numbers many Syrians have come to Egypt, because it is one of the few countries that used to welcome Syrian refugees without Visas, and because the standards of living are acceptable comparing to other countries.
Young Syrian people who have left Syria have no chance to develop their skills and capacity and they have been sitting in front of their computers and TVs watching what is going on in their homeland Syria and this is how “Zaytoon” has sprung up.
The number of Syrians who are now in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan is a huge number, and this is creating great social challenges to the Syrian community in these neighbor countries. A central problem are the young people who have escaped from the killings and threats because they demanded freedom in their country, and then they are now faced with loss of the possibility to engage in the struggle, lack of job opportunities. Often this leads to a sense of abandonment and depression.
Therefore, there was an urgent need to establish this civilian organization, which we now call “Zaytoon”, to support young Syrian refugees on an advanced level so they can stay active and develop their interest in civic society and be useful to their country now and later on.