Malu Halasa, writer and editor of Syria Speaks, made this statement at a debate in London this month, about the role of art and citizen journalism in Syria's conflict. Listen to an edit of the debate on the podcast above or read a debate excerpt below (not included in the audio).
Kirsty Lang (BBC journalist and British Council trustee): If you are in Syria, you can't put on a concert or a play. You can't publish a story. You can't use all the normal spaces in a war zone that you would to show art. Is that now a digital space?
Abed (journalist; surname redacted): I would say, even inside Syria, artists and journalists create their own space. We've now got up to ten free newspapers, journals that are published inside Syria. They're distributed all around the country.
Kirsty Lang: Real physical newspapers?
Abed: Yes. Physical.
Kirsty Lang: Being printed?
Kirsty Lang: Extraordinary.
Abed: And people are enjoying arts, opinion, political opinion in these magazines.
Kirsty Lang: I know there was a lot of street art to start with, but is there still a lot of evidence of that?
Abed: It depends on where you are in Syria, but in general, in liberated areas, it's still taking place. Although, as you said, it's cornered by fundamentalists and dictatorship. And that's why it's crucial for those people to continue their work.
Artists are producing more work now, because they feel more responsible to express what is happening at the moment. So they are creating it online, they are creating it in regions and countries around Syria, within Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq. If you go to these areas, there are amazing festivals, workshops and film screenings happening. Artists are creating their own communities. They are trying to tell the stories that are happening, even from the borders of Syria. And that's why, looking at how to keep this happening is crucial.
We don't have a formal, mainstream media reporting on what's happening, and that's why having a platform to showcase these stories coming out of conflict zones, having them there as a reflection of what's happening right now, is very important, because these are inaccessible areas we're talking about.
The debate was set within the context of the British Council’s Syria: Third Space exhibition, open in London until 18 February 2015. It was chaired by Kirsty Lang and included Abed, Malu Halasa, as well as documentary filmmaker Yasmin Fedda and a pre-recorded video by Abdullah Alkafri, playwright and executive manager of Ettijahat.