Friday, 13 June 2014

Panellist at SOAS Kurdish Society / Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation event on "What future for Syria's children?"

I was honoured to have been on the panel at an event at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on Wednesday, hosted by the SOAS Kurdish Society and Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation. The theme was: "What future for Syrian refugees". I spoke of my plans for the CAMP 4 Refugees (Culture, Arts, Music and Performance for refugees) charity that I'm trying to establish  - see more here.

Photo: Honoured to have been on the panel of tonight's SOAS Kurdish Society and Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation event on "What future for Syrian refugees". I spoke of my plans for the @CAMP4Refugees charity and possible gigs. Other panellists included: Baroness Emma Nicholson, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman (KRG High Representative to the UK) and more details here
Other panellists: Bayan Rhaman, Kurdistan Regional Government UK High Representative; Baroness Nicholson, the Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to Iraq and Chairman of the AMAR Foundation; William Morris, Secretary General of Next Century Foundation; and Sherko Zen-Alush, UK Representative of the Kurdish Yekiti Party, and the party's representative to the Kurdish National Council, Syria. More details of the event here.

During my talk, I used the microphone to play the audience audio from the video below of a man singing a lament in his UNHCR tent in the Domiz refugee camp near the Syrian border in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which I witnessed during a visit in 2013.

I set out my view that once the basic needs of camp inhabitants are met, it is vital that the world makes every effort to cater for the needs of all humans for culture and creativity. More about my proposed charity can be read here. The basic aims are to:
  • Encourage and facilitate international artists and relevant organisations to bring entertainment to refugee camps by organising concerts and workshops, with an initial focus on refugee camps dealing with the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
  • Encourage genuine cross-cultural exchange by ensuring that concerts and workshops in camps include as far as possible, local artists and camp residents as well as international artists.
  • Through the involvement of internationally famous artists, and educational organisations, raise awareness in donor countries of the suffering of refugee camp residents and about the conflicts from which they have fled.
  • Raise money for its own services and also for “normal” humanitarian relief work in refugee camps.
  • Organise a fund-raising and awareness-raising concert in the UK involving international artists to fund the first visit to a refugee camp.Boost the well-being of camp residents and help them cope with trauma by involvement in artistic expression, learning or entertainment.I am working with leading figures in the UK music industry on a possible series of gigs to raise funds for Syrian children in refugee camps. More details soon.
Baroness Nicholson spoke movingly of the de-humanising effect of life in a refugee camp. I wrote about my experiences at Domiz refugee camp here in the Wall Street Journal. As a musician, I believe in the power of creative arts to bring people together, to overcome differences, to heal trauma, to stimulate imagination - ultimately to RE-HUMANISE people. I believe that this is needed, once basic needs are met, in the camps. I'm grateful to Bayan Abdul Sami Rahman for her support of this idea.

Despite the debate we had about the recent events in Iraq, the event ended on an optimistic note, which rather made the point above. See the video below of Kurdish refugee camp inhabitants dancing to the Pharrell Williams song "Happy" (apologies for the quality of the footage - this is my footage of the genuine video being projected onto the screen at Wednesday's event). 

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