From Syria with Love
Reflections on Freedom Sessions #2
The Freedom Sessions is a series of events that bring communities together to meet new people and enjoy the cultural richness that our diversity has to offer.
We held our second Freedom Sessions on November 19th at the Dandana Cafe in The Hague. Syrian and Dutch community members were invited to join an open discussion led by Hana Ibrahim of Radio Anin to reflect on the needs and shared experiences of Syrian refugees and the Arabic community.
Hana Ibrahim is a media professional, journalist, radio speaker and drama writer with extensive experience in refugee support and protection in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and The Netherlands.
In 2022, Hana launched her own radio show called Radio Anin, an Arabic platform that supports Arab expatriates by providing information about everyday life in the Netherlands, offering them a familiar and comforting space in which they can talk about their challenges and experiences.
Though primarily aimed at residents of The Hague, people travelled from all corners of The Netherlands to attend this Freedom Sessions event. We welcomed visitors from Nijmegen to Zwolle to Hengelo, and with the live-stream from Radio Anin the evening’s discussions resonated in other European countries as well. The discussions were held in Arabic and translated into Dutch at regular intervals for the ‘local’ Dutch participants.
Above you can see the total number of listeners for this event from all over the world. Denmark tops the first place in the number of listeners, followed by the Netherlands and then Germany.
“The idea of helping those in need via the radio and connecting them to the right people or organisations here in the Netherlands sounds like exactly what middle-eastern newcomers in the Netherlands need. Hanah plays a vital role in connecting those in need with those who can offer help. I can’t think of a more direct way of helping newcomers and Hanah does it with a humble approach by connecting the listeners to the professionals we have here in The Netherlands. Hanah makes integration easier and above all it is very important for every human being to feel that they are heard and understood. Sharing pain and being understood is already half of the cure”.
Mirko Jouamer – HPP
A Way Forward
This Freedom Sessions was a welcome and successful meeting among and between communities.
It reaffirmed the need we all have to share and maintain human connections, and recognised the difficulty that civil society has in providing and sustaining these needs.
Despite the hardships and polarisation that so often plague segregation and (financial) insecurity, the overwhelming motive was to embrace the freedoms that The Netherlands has to offer and to conquer any feelings of victimization with positive and constructive attitudes.
The support among the audience and radio-listeners united a common agenda for a validated and integrated participation in the countries that have become their new home.
A critical note of the evening, shared by both the Dutch and Arabic groups present, was the Dutch integration process and the large costs and obstacles that it imposes upon newcomers.
Nevertheless, the evening’s discussions concluded that a cooperative and constructive approach was the best way forward. There was no interest in wallowing in victimhood nor immersing in critique or finger-pointing. On the contrary, there was a strong desire to do the exact opposite.
The opportunity to share and learn was more rare than we had imagined.
It was clear that to sustain any such cooperative efforts for segregated communities, their importance and their human interactions must be adequately recognised and encouraged. In today’s language, this means they need funding.
Their value is immense and certainly worthy of any serious vision or investment for the future.
Without proper recognition of communal value in economic terms, the struggle for many to fulfill their needs and build durable local relations, will remain a struggle.
Sharing is Caring
The conversation flowed easily as Hana relayed questions from the audience to Jakob De Jonge, founder of the Hague Peace Projects.
Acknowledging the reality in the room set a groundwork to understanding its predicaments and challenges. The first step towards mutual respect and trust had been taken by simply being there.
Some answers amounted to putting someone in touch with the right person. How to go about solving daily problems also received its due attention, but perhaps most important was the opportunity for those present to reflect on their situations and tell the stories of the world around them.
It was clearly good just being there and sharing.
The agency of the diaspora throughout the evening was warm and eager, and the end of the event felt like more. Despite the distances covered and the efforts made to be there, the event provided a micro-vision of the communal validation that fulfills us all. From practical tips to solidarity, finding a place in the guilded cage that The Netherlands can be is a challenge halved if you are not alone.
For our part at the HPP, we can help to create a civic space where useful connections can be made, and to maybe join some of the dots that navigate society’s obstacles.
Supporters of The Freedom Sessions
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Freedom Sessions #3 will take place in December 2022.
Details to follow shortly.
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