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Culture

Creative civil society blooms among expatriate Syrians

media Homs, 24 July 2012 Shaam News/Reuters

Many Syrian activists have fled their wartorn country, meaning an end to their contribution to the fight against President Bashar al-Assad on the ground. But they have joined a growing expatriate civil society which is trying to address problems faced by Syrians inside the war zones.

"The most important thing that children are missing during this revolution is their right to be educated," says Adnan, the pseudonym of a Syrian artist now living in Turkey.

Adnan is creating a series of comic books intended for Syrian children in refugee camps, addressing what he sees as a dangerous lack of role models.

"Everything they are watching clearly tells them that the violence is the way to gain control," he points out.

Emerging Syrian media: part 2/5
A car bomb attack at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, in Idlib, 20 January 2014. Reuters/Amer Alfaj

In his comics heros are carpenters and doctors, not soldiers or fighters.

"We are in big trouble," Adnan says. "What we're facing now is nothing compared with what we will face in 10 years when those kids are stronger, when those kids are not kids any more."

The artist is a member of a collective of media activists and journalists called the Syria Media Action Revolution Team (Smart), a news organisation that is also trying to help children.

Smart prints the magazine Zaitoun wa Zaitouneh, which uses stories and games to address a lack of education and psychological trauma. The magazine is distributed throughout Syria by a clandestine network of activists.

On France 24

Sahir (also a pseudonym) is one of the magazine's designers and is now based in the group's office in the border city of Gaziantep, Turkey.

Though they try to get the magazines to children inside the country, he says that at times this can be nearly impossible.

"There's some places attacked by Bashar and his army, so sometimes we found some areas in danger, we cannot get there," he explains. "We cannot do anything."

The collective plans to begin distributing the magazine to children living in refugee camps outside of Syria.

Other expatriate projects address an international audience, going online for a more global reach.

SyriaUntold.net, a bilingual Arabic/English website, shares alternative stories of the experience of war through video and interactive media.

Highlighting creative and non-violent Syrian cultural production, the website shares the work of painters, cartoonists, filmmakers and grassroots groups, going beyond the statistics of death and destruction

Although working as an activist inside Syria may have become too dangerous, those who have managed to find a stable position outside the country have managed to continue working with a certain degree of safety.

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