AlHara Arts is a cultural association established in 2018, aiming to support artistic creativity and encourage children and adults to be more effective in their communities by providing them with tools, means and opportunities to express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences using their own language, based on their needs and wants.
The association believes in the importance of art and its ability to make change at the social level, it also believes that art contributes to addressing humanitarian issues. Based on this belief, it aims to take its own responsibility as a cultural association towards each and every Syrian group.
Since the war broke out, the lives of more than 7.5 million children were destroyed, since this war took away their homes, schools, and families. By the end of 2020, the war had taken the lives of 20 thousand children, more than 5 thousand children are still detained up to this moment, whereas 2.5 million children are displaced and refugees, where more than 500 thousand live in camps in northwest Syria.
In addition to extreme poverty and hard life conditions in the camps which caused the children to lose their opportunities to seek education, it also led to a dangerous and unprecedented rise in the rates of child labor and underage marriage. These horrific data - as indicated by international organizations, especially UNICEF - foretell the danger of losing an entire generation of Syrian children, not to mention the dangerous psychological effects that children suffer due to war and displacement, which necessitate the enabled parties to act to help and call up to take every possible measurement to support these children and their families.
in the same context, and due to war, some of the physical and nonphysical Syrian heritage is now under a serious and dangerous threat of being lost away, In particular, we single out the Syrian Fantasy Shadow Theater which our team seeks to preserve, and was inscribed in 2018 by UNESCO on the World Heritage List and urged its preservation.
The road, The shelter, The refugees’ camp
We began our work as a team in cities and villages in northwest Syria, the team was two groups then: Al Hara theater, which specialized in theatrical shows, and 3 toon team which carried out activities related to painting and graffiti within awareness and smear campaigns.
The street was the first background of the theater plays we wrote and presented in 2018, where the children used to gather in the street, in spite of war, to play and spend time together, chasing a childhood they were missing. Plus, the street gave us the access to the children who dropped out of school for various reasons, sometimes because their school was bombed, other times due to lack of ability. So, children, at that time, used to gather around our theater which was made basically by a simple piece of wood, where we often got together on the ruins of a destroyed house or school by bombing, to spend time together, and to laugh, learn and fly with imagination away from the war.
The walls of our streets are still carrying our murals and awareness drawings that we created through various initiatives.
Today, after the tremendous forced displacement of most cities and villages in northwest Syria, the refugees’ camps there are now the focus point of our work, activities, and shows, where our team in Syria wanders among camps to visit the few children’s centers that are still working, and presents shows as well as art, writing, and acting workshops, which are some of the activities we are trying to implement despite many challenges. However, we have determination to prevent the risks of having a so-called lost generation.
On both sides of the borders
Before the regime’s army took control of most of the cities and towns in the countryside of Idlib and Hama and displaced their residents, we carried out many activities and events in those areas. Today, despite the long distance between Syria and Turkey that separates the team members from each other, we are continuing our work with greater vigor by coordinating with the members who remained in Syria in order to carry out activities in the refugees’ camps and the remaining children’s centers, as well as working on activities and events concerning Syrian refugees in Ghazi Gaziantep. This is because the borders will not deter us from continuing to work on our cause. On the contrary, it is a point of strength. Being present as a team on both sides of the border enables us to provide psychological support to the displaced children in the various refugees’ camps in northern Syria and at the same time work with refugees in Turkey.
Al Hara arts seeks to work basically with children, since they are the main subject of harm, and the most vulnerable and marginalized during war, aiming to reduce the severe psychological effects resulted by living their childhood in the time of war and instability. The team’s goal is to address this group and communicate with it using art and artistic tools of the team. The team includes theater actors, writers, musicians, artists, photographers, and filmmakers working in Gaziantep and northwest Syria.
Through art, we aim to talk “with” and “about”
On one hand, theater, music and painting are the means of communication we use to address our audience of young and adults, and we work through them to provide psychological support and present entertaining and awareness-raising content, as well as present the values of freedom, justice, and human rights through an easy language that everyone understand. So, art is our tool to communicate with people and give them a moment of normal life that was destroyed by war and displacement.
On the other hand, through the same artistic tools supported by tools of photography and video making, our goal is to talk about those people, tell their story, and put a face to those numbers of statistics on Syria. This way, by creating an unbreakable bond between talking with them and about them, we aim to keep the Syrian case in the center of discussion, so the injustice done, and still being done, to civilians won’t sink into oblivion. In other words, our aim is to preserve and protect the human, historical, and artistic memory of Syria, and keep it alive.