In a series of events held April 20 at AUS under the title “Syria— In the Name of the Homeland,” the American University of Sharjah’s (AUS) Syrian Cultural Club and Student Council raised AED 10,565 for charity.
Proceeds of the night, which celebrated the April 17 Syrian Independence Day, went to the UAE’s Red Crescent Society to aid Syrian refugees.
The events took about 300 attendees on a journey incorporating both Syria’s past glories and present day struggles. Salbi Babekian, the Student Council’s Student Organizations Coordinator, hosted the event, starting by reciting a poem about nostalgia to the homeland, written by the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.
“It took us more than two weeks to plan this event,” said Juman Jijakli, the council’s Events and Activities Coordinator. “I’m really happy to see our efforts pay off.”
Not only did organizers collect donations, they also showed that Syrians can work together regardless of differences in political views, added Jijakli.
A traditional dancemarked the beginning of festivities. The aradah is a Levantine folk dance performed by men during weddings. The lead performer, as traditionally done, recited prayers of health and prosperity, wished for single men to get married, and praised Syria.
Syrian artist and AUS undergraduate Fadi Rifai performed six songs throughout the night. He also directed and wrote the silent, 10-minute play after which the event was named. In the Name of the Homeland was originally performed during Global Day 2013.
Symbolizing Syrian unity, it began with actors wearing white shirts, watering a plant in the middle of the stage. As the plot progressed, actors dressed in black and blue disrupted the unity. The other performers then split into two groups, taking their white shirts off, and in the subsequent fighting the plant fell. The violence ended when everyone donned their white shirts again.
The play’s soundtrack featured a song produced, composed and written by Rifai.
“It feels good to look at something that came from my heart being projected onstage,” said Rifai. “I am very thankful to all performers and the work they put into this.”
“The performance itself was neutral,” he noted, explaining the idea behind it. “All sides in Syria should ultimately live together. We need to unite.”
Speaking to all Syrians, Rifai added that “Those [refugees] are your people. Regardless of the reasons that led to their displacement, you should help them.”
The event also included a poetry section. Sinan Moawad, the Syrian Cultural Club’s previous president, performed an original poem and football freestyler Bilal Al-Beirakdar recited another Qabbani poem.
“Syria is always inside us,” said Al-Beirakdar. “Performing tonight made me miss Syria even more. I miss it. We all do.”
A hakawati (storyteller) skit about a Syrian studying at AUS was also part of the program. The young Syrian sought love by going through unconventional and humorous ways, said AUS student Tayser AbouChaar, who played the storyteller’s role.
“All Syrians should be one hand,” said Yahya Alshilih, the Syrian club’s Public Relations Coordinator. Despite the state of unrest Syria is currently going through, its citizens can still unite to aid their brothers and sisters, he added.
Ghaith Kabbani, the club’s president, echoed Alshilih and said that “We hope to return to Syria and continue our positive efforts to help our community.”
Watch Rifai sing for his country:
Nour Al-Ali is an English Literature and Mass Communication double major junior at the American University of Sharjah.
For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu