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Arts festival aims to show Syria uprising is 'bigger than bullets'

March 15, 2012 | 11:30 am

REPORTING FROM AMMAN, JORDAN -- One year into an uprising that has grown increasingly militarized and violent, young Syrians are organizing film screenings, concerts and art exhibitions to show that the rebellion has produced not only blood but art.

"The idea of the Syrian Street Festival started in prison. I was detained for four months with a group of friends," said Amer Matar, a Syrian journalist and one of the organizers. "The idea behind the celebration is to show that the revolution is bigger than bullets and killings."

The festival began Thursday -- the one-year anniversary of the uprising against decades of autocratic Baath Party rule -- and is scheduled to continue over the next week with events in Syria and around the world, including a Syrian art exhibition in Cairo and revolutionary plays in Berlin.

Festival organizers also plan to hand out free CDs with music created in Syria during the uprising and government crackdown. All of the art exhibited was created in the tumultuous months since the rebellion began.

In Syria, screenings and other events will be announced with little notice for security reasons. Many of the films to be screened were shot and produced at great risk. Some have already been aired on Arab satellite channels such as Al Arabiya.

"Al-Waer," a 27-minute film, shows protests and military deployment in the restive city of Homs in the summer before it was stormed by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashir Assad. Another short film, "Dawar al-Shams," focuses on women in Rastan grieving for their loved ones. "Tahrib 23 Daqiqet Thawra" tells the story of Hama.

"We want to show a new Syria," said Rima Flihan, a festival organizer and spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network. 

Some dissidents are skeptical. "People are being killed. It is not the time to celebrate," said Hosam Badri, co-founder of a online Syrian radio station called New Start. "We should be organizing conferences to talk about a solution for the country."

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-- Rima Marrouch

Video: A promotion for the Syrian Street Festival uploaded to YouTube by opposition activists.

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