Writing in times of war and revolution

This seminar series is dedicated to 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. 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 sidelining of all peace talks and other political processes. 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. This seminar series aims to shed 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.

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-Asad. 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.