Writing in times of war and revolution
Samar Yazbek (Syrian writer, Paris)
Public Seminar Series
Wednesday, 22 February 2017, 5pm to 6.30pm
Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB
Hosted by Refugee Studies Centre
RSC Public Seminar Series, Hilary term
PERSPECTIVES ON THE SYRIAN CONFLICT
Series convened by Dr Leïla Vignal
This seminar series focuses on the unfolding conflict and human catastrophe in Syria.
The Syrian conflict started in 2011 as a popular and pacific uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Asad. It mutated into an armed conflict between numerous opposition armed groups and the Asad regime. External actors have since started to intervene, either directly in support of the Damascus regime, or indirectly in support of some of the very diverse armed groups of the opposition. From 2014, the group Islamic State, originating from Iraq, opportunistically exploited the situation when it expanded across the border into Syria.
Since Russia stepped directly onto the military scene in 2015, the conflict has entered a new phase, characterised by the central role played by external powers in propping up the Asad regime, and the side-lining of all peace talks and other political processes. The retaking of the opposition-held eastern areas of Aleppo in December 2016, following massive campaigns of bombing and shelling, is in this regard a clear turning point - although it is far from signalling the end of the conflict.
The Syrian population is bearing the brunt of this conflict. Estimates vary as to the number of civilian deaths directly linked to the conflict, but they could reach more than 300,000. Poverty affects four in five Syrians. In 2017, Syria holds two world records: it is the country with the most Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and more refugees come from Syria than any other country (five million registered with the UNHCR, possibly over six million in total).
This seminar series aims at shedding light on different aspects of the Syrian conflict in order to provide a better understanding of it. It also discusses the consequences of the situation in Syria for the international community, for humanitarian organisations, but also for the legal infrastructures put in place since the Second World War with regard to international humanitarian laws, human rights, and refugee protection.
The seminar series is supported by the Maison Française d’Oxford.
About the speaker
Samar Yazbek is a Syrian writer and journalist. She has been a prominent voice in support of human rights and women’s rights in Syria. Her debut novel, called Tiflat as-Sama (Heavenly Girl), challenged existing taboos in Syrian society. She is a member of the minority Alawi community, but is an opponent of the government of her co-religionist President Bashar al-Assad. In 2010, Yazbek was selected as one of the Beirut39, a group of 39 Arab writers under the age of 40 chosen through a contest organised by Banipal magazine and the Hay Festival. In 2012, she was chosen for the prestigious PEN/Pinter Prize ‘International writer of courage’, in recognition of her book A Woman in the Crossfire. She was awarded the Swedish Tucholsky Prize in the same year. In 2013, she received the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award to recognize writers who have been persecuted for their work.