Memory & Art

The Syrian crisis is continuing with its large and complex issues that affect and concern all Syrians, whether they lived through years of conflict or are among the generations who will live the post-war realities.

The importance of documenting and highlighting remains crucial, and Dawlaty is devoted to continue documenting the future, by collecting testimonies from Syrians from different geographical areas, whether inside Syria or in the diaspora. It also sheds light on issues and topics that Syrians live with daily, such as exile, economic hardship, political transformations, etc..

Oral History and the Role of Memory - Why collect oral history in an archive?

Memory is an important force that helps societies rebuild and recover themselves and learn from, and come to terms with past experiences. Memory creates awareness and highlights the ways in which individual and collective memories of armed conflict affect the lives of survivors of war and prolonged conflicts.

Taking into account memory helps us to better understand how certain uses of the ‘past’ can reignite, perpetuate, or originate conflicts. At the same time, working on memory can show us how societies use memory to learn from history, to heal old wounds, to remember and compensate victims, or to promote more reflective ways of dealing with the past.

Oral history focuses on collecting and examining important events and historical information, recording them, and preserving historical details based on the personal views and experiences of the narrator in a particular time and place. Oral history is a method of historical research that uses recorded interviews between informed interlocutors and narrators who have first-hand experiences of important historical events. Oral history may take the form of an eyewitness account, but can also include cultural expressions such as folklore, myths, songs, and folktales passed down through generations. Oral history can be particularly useful in capturing stories from minority groups or under-represented communities and including them into formal history accounts. It can also be useful when written or visual evidence is lacking .

In general, the collection of oral interviews is a way to support mainstream historical records through including personal and first-hand accounts. Thus, oral history can be a decisive source complementing existing written historical accounts (which are often the mainstream account) sources, as an oral testimony is a detailed personal account of a place or event, reflecting the opinions of the narrator.

However, it is not intended to provide a definitive or objective account of events, or to provide a complete history of a place or event, rather it is a spoken history that reflects a personal perspective. As it is presented by the narrator, and thus subjective, Oral history aims to combine gathered information and testimonies from different perspectives, in order to achieve more diversity and inclusivity in written historical sources.

Finally, oral history relies on a set of tools, such as audio and video recordings and interview transcripts, which must be preserved and documented to serve as reference and evidence for future generations. Thus, it can be used with other primary and secondary sources to consolidate our understanding of the course of historical events.

Oral History and the Use of Art

As part of its effort to influence conflict memorialization and post-conflict narratives, Dawlaty, in collaboration with other groups, has held art installations, storytelling and theatrical performances that addressed key issues in the subject of the memory of the conflict in Syria, such as stories of female relatives of the disappeared, the attacks agnist civilians and forced displacement of civilians in Ghouta, and the experiences of youth in the conflict. These artistic events, which were inspired by the oral history collections in SOHA, have received interest from artists and researchers who expressed further interest in accessing the testimonies.

As such, the Community Art Project’s objective is to activate the SOHA archive via employing innovative and creative tools for the purpose of engaging with various Syrian communities and of foregrounding multiple narratives on the Syrian conflict and its memory.

SOHA Community Art Project

During the past few years, Dawlaty has held, in cooperation with several civil society groups, numerous artistic events around the collected oral testimonies – such as storytelling and theater performances tackling the Syrian conflict and the memories of the Syrian people, stories of female relatives of detainees and the forcibly disappeared, stories of attacks targeting civilians in Syrian cities, stories of forced displacement, and the experiences of youths in the conflict.

These artistic events, inspired directly by the archived testimonies, received the attention of artists and researchers who expressed a special interest in accessing the testimonies. This, in turn, encouraged Dawlaty to integrate artistic and creative production with community participation, and it launched its Community Art Project, which aims to activate the Syrian Oral History Archive, using innovative and creative tools, in order to communicate with the various Syrian communities and present them with the multiplicity of narratives surrounding the Syrian conflict.

An initial product of this project was the creation of a modern Syrian collective novel, on which a group of talented Syrian writers worked on interpreting the oral testimonies of ‘ordinary’ Syrians, through a narrating form that allows conveying these testimonies from individual experiences to the world of literature. These endeavors eventually led to creation of a narrative of the Syrian ‘human’, and his/her encountering the multifaceted narratives of the different parties to the conflict.

The Syrian Oral History Archive

The Syrian Oral History Archive is an initiative launched by Dawlaty as an attempt to present Syrian narratives on what happened in Syria from the beginning of the peaceful movement in 2011 until today, collecting oral histories and building an archive that any Syrian from current and future generations can access.


Dawlaty is a nonprofit foundation that believes in nonviolence and peaceful resistance, working towards a democratic and peaceful transition in a state that upholds human rights, equality, tolerance and diversity. Dawlaty strives to support civil society to become an active participant in Syria’s transition towards a just democratic state.

The Archive

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Requesting access you can access the complete recordings from the archive by a submission form.