Meanwhile, on planet Damascus...a ludicrous literature festival takes place

Meanwhile, on planet Damascus...a ludicrous literature festival takes place
As Syria's future appears precarious and more than 470,000 people have been killed in a five year war, the regime holds literature festivals in Damascus.
3 min read
04 Apr, 2016
A party in a restaurant in Damascus over the weekend [Getty]
While an uneasy ceasefire puts a war that has killed at least 470,000 people in limbo, the Arab Writers Union held a Damascus Prize for Arabic Fiction with the theme of "the culture of enlightenment."

"This award is to promote the slogan of the culture of the Enlightenment; the first literary prize in Syria to extend to the Arab world and is comparable to the value of other similar literary Arab prizes," said Nidal Saleh, the head of the writers’ union, said in a statement.

"This award will constitute the culmination of a victory that was created by Syria…in the face of darkness, and the significance of the role that culture will place to keep pace with the march of men to create victories for the defence of Syria and dignity".

On the same day the award was given, 33 people were killed by regime forces in violation of the uneasy ceasefire.

The writer's award came shortly after the "activities of the Syrian Heritage Festival" (AKITO) started Friday in Damascus to celebrate the ancient history of Syria, reported the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

Syrian singer Raber Waheed said that the festival demonstrated Syrian’s interest in their heritage that "represented a challenge to terrorism."

Damascus often hosts cultural prizes and festivals with an emphasis on patriotism and loyalty towards a regime that has bombed, gassed and tortured tens of thousands of its people to death.

In February, the Syrian Arab News Agency themselves launched a prize for the most prominent national poem
SANA Director-General Ahmad Dawa said that the aim of this competition is "to shed light on our poets who recited poems praising the struggle of the Syrian Arab army and its sacrifices against the terrorist war waged on Syria."

As the Syrian regime and her supporters hold cultural events in Damascus in neighborhoods not far from the city centre, such as Madaya and Yarmouk remain under siege.

The Syrian Revolution – otherwise referred to by the regime as "the forces of darkness and terrorism" has seen its own cultural blossoming with songs, literature and art that celebrate the revolution and the sacrifices made by revolutionaries.

Taking advantage of the decrease in daily bombings on Syria, revolutionaries have returned to the streets in peaceful protest with songs and dancing demanding freedom from a regime that continues to live on another planet called Damascus.

The nature of the Damascus bubble previously came to prominence when the tourism minister encouraged a campaign called "Summer in Syria" promoting regime-sponsored art fairs, film festivals, and fashion shows — and asked Syrians to share their experiences of summer on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerInSyria.

The surreal hashtag was quickly hijacked by Syrians sharing photos of what remained of bombed and deserted neighbourhoods outside the centre of the capital. 

It is tragic that a regime which has resorted to the virtual online world to propagate its message appears to live in a virtual world oblivious to the pain and suffering it inflicts on its people.