“Please don't do it in Damascus,” was the message shared by a Syrian from the besieged area of Ghouta regarding the celebration of a TEDx conference in Damascus on January 29. This event has sparked many online reactions, both in favor and against.
Ghouta is one among the many Syrian towns that have been subjected to siege, bombing, destruction and starvation since the beginning of the popular uprising in March 2011. The unbearable situation of a large part of the Syrian population contrasts with the attempts to project an image of normality in areas under regime control. The celebration of TEDx is, for many activists, a step towards normalization of the ruling regime.
Among the most vocal against the event is civil group Kesh Malek, which has highlighted the voices of those opposing its celebration.
Others argue that the event offers a much needed opportunity for Syrians to look out of the horror the country faces. Web developers Milad Kawas Cale and Harout Ekmanian, members of the TEDx Aleppo team, highlight the need for Syrians to find windows:
The sufferings of our people should always be taken into account, at least from a moral and humanitarian point of view. Having this said, life must not stop at here. The attempts to seek a window to look out of the mayhem that our people is living in should be only welcomed. In this spirit, we encourage the TEDx YPU and we wish them the best of luck. We believe there should be more #TEDx initiatives in other locations in #Syria, as long as it doesn’t risk the lives of the organizers, speakers and attendees.
In the words of the organizers, students from the Yarmouk Private University, the event will bring together 25 university students and 10 high profile speakers around the theme “ideas out of the box”.
TEDxYPU is the first TEDx event in Syria, as we succeed to get the TEDx university type organizing license from TED international organization. All organizers and volunteers are university students. This TEDxYPU’s most important goals are to spread inspiring ideas, encourage dialogue, and form a TEDx community in Syria.
However, as developer Anas Maarrawi pointed, innovation can hardly flourish while innovators like Bassel Safadi remained imprisoned, and when the majority of Syrian free thinkers have been killed, detained or forced to leave the country.