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Preserving a History of Diversity in Times of Conflict

KAS and Sharq collect oral histories of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

As the concern for the basic needs dominates the life of the millions of Syrian refugees that have left Syria since the beginning of the war, the preservation of identity, traditions and history are often overlooked when survival and finding safety become a priority. A project funded by the KAS Syria/Iraq office and implemented by Sharq for Citizen Development aims to gather, collect, present and thus preserve the stories of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The project started in January 2016 and its results will be presented at the beginning of 2017.

The project aims to provide academics, the media and the public with opportunities to more fully comprehend and explore the diversity of people and experiences across Syria through documented interviews with members of communities whose identities are likely to be lost or forever changed as a result of the war. Besides this, both the host communities and Syrians themselves should gain a more insightful and inclusive understanding of Syrian culture and society, and appreciate it in its full diversity. Apart from generating short term media attention, the project aims to achieve permanent preservation of these stories and to highlight the fact that Syria has more to offer than war and chaos.

Sharq trained 10 Syrians to record interviews with around 74 Syrian refugees from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds and living in different areas of Lebanon. Most of the interviews were audio recorded, while a few interviewees agreed to have their oral histories video recorded or their pictures taken. A website was created, including both English and Arabic versions, presenting each interviewee on the homepage with a video link, a photograph or a quote. The site will be launched in February 2017 at an event in Beirut. The long version of the interviews will likewise be made available.