SouriaLi, a Syrian Arabic-speaking radio station, emerged after the uprisings in Syria had started in 2011. It, among others, tackles issues about children in the Syrian context. SouriaLi produces material for children and Syrian families aiming at supporting the distressed psychologically and morally, offering general knowledge and giving a stage for children to express themselves as “children”. In programs such as “we tell stories or we sleep” (in Arabic: Nihki wallannam), they focus on the beautiful memories of children’s games, stories and jokes before the conflict. It also aims at preserving the Syrian culture from decay after hundreds of thousands; rather millions immigrated to other countries all over the world.[ezcol_1half]
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Hakim Khatib: A political scientist and analyst works as a lecturer for politics and culture of the Middle East, intercultural communication and journalism at Fulda and Darmstadt Universities of Applied Sciences and Phillips University Marburg. Hakim is a PhD candidate in political science on political instrumentalisation of Islam in the Middle East and its implications on political development at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the founder and editor-in-chief of the Mashreq Politics and Culture Journal (MPC Journal).
While SouriaLI offers children the possibility to express themselves and what they wish to contribute to the future of Syria in programs such as “childhood dreams” (in Arabic: Ahlam Tufoula), it also broadcasts the traditions of Syrian children when they used to go to school, sing songs, and even the way children used to play. In addition, it offers children the chance of learning through playing, which is an unconventional method for the traditional schools used to be open before the war in Syria.
In several audio podcasts similar to “childhood dreams”, SouriaLi gave children the chance to freely express their opinion and to ask and answer questions were previously forbidden under the rule of Hafez Al-Assad and his son Bashar Al-Assad. One of these questions was: “If you were the president of Syria, what would you do?” Children’s answers to this question were nothing but innocent and sweet. Nevertheless their responses were hugely affected by the grievances of the Syrian people. Some of the answers were: “ I would care for the poor,” one child said. “I would build as many schools as possible,” another answered. “I would respect the law so people would learn from me,” a third child said.
These questions and answers produce a structure of thought unlike the learning structures previously existed in Syria. While learning structures in Syria were influenced by a totalitarian political party – Baath Party, SouriaLi attempts to produce programs foster an environment of critical thinking, in which children learn the difference between, for example, the concept of government and the concept of state.
According to our analysis, the main feature SouriaLi enjoys is the narrative and dialectic style. Through its programs for children, SouriaLi uses simple, interesting and traditional stories such as “Cinderella” and “The Sleeping Beauty” and tries to compare them to the reality in Syria focusing on the positive prospects for the Syrian future. In a narrative style, SouriaLi sends messages to children urging them to focus on building rather than destroying, forgiveness rather than revenge and tolerance rather than extremism.
The team of SouriaLi tackles the seriousness of children’s involvement in armed struggles and its complications on Syrian families in programs such as “bridges to teach children and youth in Syria” (in Arabic: Jusour lita’aleem atfal wa shabab souria). This program moves a step forward from theory to practice by hosting activists involved in fundraising for building schools, finding scholarships for students at universities, or even by reaching actors and experts to teach Shakespearean theatre to children in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.
SouriaLi doesn’t forget social minorities such as the physically and mentally challenged children and orphans. While orphans and disabled can be found in society before the war, their numbers have been multiplying since the armed struggle started in Syria. SouriaLi sheds light on the difficulties and necessary measures needed to involve and integrate these children in the Syrian society.
Radio SouriaLi is a regional Syrian-based grassroots non-profit radio station dedicated to working with Syrian and Arab people in fostering an advanced level of awareness in civil society, active citizenship, communication, women-empowerment, youth-motivation and peace building through high quality music, performance and public affairs programming. “We hope to inform and educate active individuals and inspire them to work towards the future of a democratic and better world,” a representative from SouriaLi station said to the MPC Journal.
SouriaLi occasionally produces English material from which we chose the following:
Special Interview 84 – A message from Rwanada to the youth of Syria.
Special Coverage 80 – 100 Years of Chemical Weapons.
You may find more material here.
And here are a few links to some SouriaLi’s podcasts in Arabic: