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Witness Aleppo

April 3, 2018

Jason Hamacher, Lost Origin Productions
Lina Sergie Attar, Architect
Farrah Hassen, Filmmaker
Moderated by Shamila Chaudhary, Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute 

Before bomb blasts and gunfire overtook Aleppo during the Syrian civil war, what sounds marked daily life? As part of its series The Big Picture examining international relations through an artistic and cultural lens, the Foreign Policy Institute hosted creative experts with personal connections to Aleppo to provide context on this city marred by conflict. 

Jason Hamacher discussed his documentary photography captured 2005 to 2010 during unprecedented access to the city of Aleppo. Hamacher explained that following the breakup of his band, he set out to combine his enthusiasm for ancient culture with his music. He decided to create a rock orchestra based on Syrian holy music, and during his travels to Aleppo, he photographed the daily lives of city residents. After more than 20,000 photos, his time in Syria ended as conflict broke out, but Hamacher considers his project unfinished. He produced an album to raise awareness for Syria’s cultural treasures.

Filmmaker Farrah Hassen visited Aleppo in 2003 for the first time with a small media crew to make a documentary which would share the sights and sounds of Syria to the American audience largely unaware of Syria’s historic past and modern prominence in the Middle East. Hassen determined that the nation needs a long term recovery plan to address current political challenges and to establish roles for the Syrian diaspora community to aid in rebuilding the nation. 

Lina Sergie Attar is a Syrian-American architect who runs the Karam Foundation supporting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and United States. Attar said there are 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians in camps and border zones and 5.5 million refuges outside the country, which means the key stakeholders for rebuilding are not being sufficiently consulted. 

Questions from the audience touched on the need for representative government, relief efforts for refugees, and the philanthropic support for and among the diaspora community.

Photo album