Syrian exhibit shows country’s rich culture

More than 4 million Syrian refugees have been displaced since the civil war started after an uprising in March 2011, according to The United Nations Refugee Agency. Since then, families have been separated and more than 220,000 civilians have died, according to the American aid agency, Mercy Corps.

“A lot of people do not know much about Syria and how it has such a rich culture. It is not just a violent culture that people think of when they see the news,” said sophomore screenwriting major Judie Muhrez, whose family is from Syria.

Maria Khani, curator of the exhibit, and three other Syrian women started the showcase, titled “A Country Called Syria,” as a way to show students a culture that’s beyond what the media has portrayed

A table display showcases work from “Kids Giving Hope to Kids” as part of the Syrian exhibit located on the fourth floor of Leatherby Libraries, which will be open until December.  Photo by Allie Camp.

A table display showcases work from “Kids Giving Hope to Kids” as part of the Syrian exhibit located on the fourth floor of Leatherby Libraries, which will be open until December. Photo by Allie Camp.

“We wanted to do something for the country that was not political and put a more human side to the country,” Khani said.

The main exhibit opened Sept. 30 on the fourth floor of the Leatherby Libraries. The display shows aspects of the Syrian culture such as its music, food and attire — some examples are folk art figurines, hand crafted dresses and pictures of Syrian cities.

Essraa Nawar, library development coordinator, is a friend of Khani and thought bringing the exhibit to Chapman would be a great idea.

“We try to get international exhibits into the library and I thought this one would be good because of its relevance,” Nawar said. “This exhibit is one more step for the students to get a more global understanding and perceptive.”

The exhibition links with the concurrent art display “Kids Giving Hope to Kids,” a project created by nurse Lynn Matthews, who started the program after visiting refugee camps in Erbil, Iraq last summer. Matthews’ project links American kids with Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan kids in refugee camps through the exchange of art.

“A drawing with a little message can give hope to these little kids and seeing these drawings makes it a little more personal,” Matthews said.

Paintings titled “Syrian Twitter Portrait” by Kinda Hibrawi, creative and education director of the Karam Foundation, are displayed in the exhibit. The paintings consist of Twitter posts made during a civil war attack. Hibrawi and the Karam Foundation have helped displaced Syrian refugees by providing  education, sustainable business and humanitarian aid.

“We are a grassroots that is dedicated to advocate the larger community about what we do and what is going on in Syria,” Hibrawi said.

The idea for the U.S. and other countries to accept Syrian refugees  has been discussed by the United Nations. President Barack Obama announced Sept. 30 that his administration will take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees within the next year.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, as of this June, the United States has taken in 1,000 refugees and the European Union has accommodated for more than 400,000 since 2011, with most of them residing in Germany.

Political science professor Nubar Hovsepian said it’s America’s duty to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, as it is our moral and political obligation to give the refugees a place to seek asylum.

“Refugees at the large tend to help with the growth of our wealth, instead of reversing it,” Hovesepian said.

Muhrez knows just how hard it is for the refugees, based on her family’s experiences.

“I know how hard it is to get visas to come here from seeing my family and it is frustrating seeing that not many people are getting help,” Muhrez said.

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