Displaced Syrian researchers sharing experiences at conference of at-risk academics

24 November 2021

Cara (the Council for At-Risk Academics), with the support of The British Academy and the Royal Society, is delighted to announce a five-day online Syria Programme Symposium, 'Voices from the Syrian Academic Community: Unique local insights and contributions to research, policy and practice' (6 – 10 December 2021). The symposium provides a platform for Syrian academics to showcase and share their research with a wider audience from the academic and humanitarian sectors, highlighting the importance of local knowledge, expertise and networks. This will facilitate academics in forming new partnerships, engaging funders with follow-on work and working to get Syrian higher education back on the international agenda. 

Dr Abdulkader Rashwani, an applied chemist, supported by the Cara Syria Programme to work on techniques to recycle concrete aggregates from destroyed buildings in Syria, said: "I am one of many Syrian academics who have been working in the conflict areas of northwest Syria. For five years I have tirelessly crossed the border from my exile in Turkey to help develop an educated generation capable of rebuilding the country once the war ends.

"This symposium offers an important opportunity for my voice to be heard in an international forum."

Welcome sessions will be delivered by Professor Sir Malcolm Grant CBE, Cara President; Professor Simon Goldhill FBA, British Academy Foreign Secretary; and Professor Robin Grimes FRS FREng, incoming Royal Society Foreign Secretary.

Each day is themed within a UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) framework, under which over 50 Cara Syria Programme-supported studies have been clustered. The themes are: 'Reconstructing Syrian Society and the Role of HE' (Day 1); 'Inequality & Displacement' (Day 2); 'Operationalising Research to Help Rebuild Syria's Infrastructure' (Day 3); 'Syrian Food Futures: Agriculture & Food Security' (Day 4); and 'Partnership towards the Goal of Quality Higher Education in Syria' (Day 5).

Cultural sessions will also run on the first four evenings of the symposium: 'Women Writing Syria: Resilience, Solidarity, Movement’ (Day 1); 'Syrian Cultural Heritage: Global North/South Collaboration' (Day 2);  'Documenting Syria: Health, Space, Activism' a screening of 'For Sama' followed by a Q&A with the film's BAFTA award-winning director Waad al-Kateab (Day 3); and, 'Syrian Humming Project' presented by Dr Suk-Jun Kim, a Korean composer and sound artist (Day 4).

Symposium sessions will be chaired by Fellows of the British Academy and Fellows of the Royal Society with keynote speakers including Dr Flavia Schlegel, International Science Council Special Envoy for Science in Global Policy, and Professor Jim Al-Khalili CBE FRS, theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster.

Hiba Alhaji, a researcher supported through the Cara Syria Programme investigating the role of women in contemporary Syria, said "During the past decade of war and displacement, there have been few opportunities for Syrian academics to make their voices heard – more so for female academics. 

"This symposium offers a chance to close the gender gap that has always existed. The evening cultural events pave the way to explore the new roles that women have played since the Syrian revolution, as novelists and writers."

The Cara Syria Programme provides support to displaced Syrian academics who have had to leave their academic positions after being forcibly uprooted by war. The programme facilitates opportunities to continue to contribute, grow and connect professionally during this period of uncertainty, as a group with a vital role to play in the rebuilding Syria and its higher education sector.

Additional information, including registration details, are available here.