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Mahindra Humanities Center Event: Writing Syria

October 10, 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Seminar

Moderator: Riad Ismat, Writer, Director, and Critic

Opening Remarks: Harvard FXB’s  Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Chair, Harvard Scholars at Risk

About the Participants:

Born in Damascus, Syria and now living Pittsburgh via Chicago, Osama Alomar is one of the most well-respected Arabic poets writing today and a prominent practitioner of the Arabic al-qisa al-qasira jiddan, or the “very short story.” He is the author of Fullblood Arabian (with a preface by Lydia Davis), three collections of short stories, and a volume of poetry in Arabic. His first full-length collection of stories, The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories, was published by New Directions in 2017. His stories have been published in Noon, Conjunctions, The Coffin Factory, Electric Literature, and The Literary Review.

Mahmoud Nowara is a Palestinian literary artist and journalist born and raised in Damascus. He spent 12 years writing for news outlets across the Arab world. Writing under a pseudonym, Nowara reported on the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, which led to his forced disappearance at the hands of the Syrian intelligence services. After his release, he escaped to Lebanon, where he covered the Syrian refugee crisis for the Arabic- and English-language press. While in exile in Lebanon, he composed a monodrama based on his experiences of imprisonment and torture which was performed at Beirut’s Station Beirut Theater. Nowara subsequently fled Lebanon for France before relocating to the US; he was a visiting fellow at Harvard University in 2017. He is currently working on a novel and developing a film version of his monodrama with Boston’s Fort Point Theater Channel.

Samar Yazbek is a Syrian writer and journalist. Yazbek has been a prominent voice in support of human rights, particularly women’s rights, in Syria. In 2011, she took part in the popular uprising against the Assad regime and was forced into exile shortly after. In 2012 she launched Women Now for Development, an NGO based in France that aims to empower Syrian women economically and socially. Her book, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, won the PEN/Pinter Prize International Writer of Courage Award from English PEN in 2012. She has also been awarded the Tucholsky Prize from Swedish PEN and the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award for Freedom of Expression. In 2016, her book The Crossing, a literary narrative of the transformation of the Syrian Revolution, was awarded the Best Foreign Book award in France.

Riad Ismat is a prize-winning Syrian writer, director, and critic. Ismat was awarded the DW Literature Prize from Germany’s Deutsche Welle in 1993 and has been honored at several Arab theater festivals. He is noted for his adaptations of The Arabian Nights, Shahryar’s Nights, SinbaId, and The Game of Love and Revolution. He has written seven television serials, including award-winners Hulago and A Crown of Thorn. He served as Syria’s ambassador to Pakistan and Qatar and was Minister of Culture from 2010 to June 2012. He subsequently settled in the US and has taught screenwriting, performance, Arabic cinema, and Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern University and other institutions.

Cosponsored by the Harvard Scholars at Risk Program


Milstein East C, Wasserstein Hall, 1585 Massachusetts Avenue, Harvard Law School


Mahindra Humanities Center
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