May 26, 2014
Throughout the reign of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez before him, the Syrian government has been notorious for its stifling restrictions on freedom of the press, with the state effectively controlling all dimensions of the country’s media landscape while stamping out any hint of dissent. The outbreak of the Syrian conflict, and the removal of Syrian government institutions from areas throughout the country have provided fertile ground for an upsurge in independent media activity.
A large array of anti-government news networks, media centers and independent "citizen journalists" have cropped up around the country. Such outlets face a myriad of challenges ranging from securing funding to avoiding crackdowns by the regime and hard-line opposition groups.
Less overtly political media outlets, which cover literature, art, humanitarian issues and other topics, have also sprung up over the past three years. "Tayarat Waraq," or "Paper Airplane" is one such magazine, printed and distributed for free in Damascus and Aleppo, and devoted to addressing the psychological needs of Syrian children whose lives and worldviews been shaped by bloodshed.
UNICEF reports that more than four million Syrian children are currently living "in dire situations" inside Syria, suffering "poverty, displacement and caught in the lines of fire."
"Tayarat Waraq's goal is to alleviate the suffering of Syrian children with pictures, paintings and meaningful stories that reflect reality," Asma, the chief editor of volunteer-run Tayarat Waraq, tells Syria Direct's Raneem Qubatrus. "We are trying to teach them concepts of tolerance, brotherhood and peace."
Photo courtesy of Tayarat Waraq.
Q: Why the magazine’s focus on children?
A: Syria’s future is in the hands of its children.
Q: What are the most important issues discussed in Tayarat Waraq?
A: Most of the stories relate to children’s psychology, covering anger management, anxiety, sadness, cooperation and the grieving process. These topics are presented through stories that help explain the problems children are facing and what steps can be taken to address them.
Q: The magazine is distributed in Damascus and Aleppo. How do you distribute and print in these areas?
A: The editing and design of the magazine is done outside of Syria. Printing is done in Aleppo in a relatively safe area and we currently print 2,000 copies of each edition. Printing in Damascus is harder and we were even forced to stop for a short period of time due to the security situation in the cities under regime control.
Q: Where did you get the idea for Tayarat Waraq?
Tayarat Waraq is a magazine that is part of the Hourrass (Guards) network, which is a group that seeks to provide psycho-social support and protection for Syrian children. The magazine uses stories that focus on children’s mental wellbeing.
Q: What type of people work with you? Are they specialized in psychology?
A: The staff is comprised of people interested in the network’s vision of helping children. The core staff is specialized in child psychology and has experience working with children.
Q: What is the message of Tayarat Waraq?
A: Tayarat Waraq's goal is to alleviate the suffering of Syrian children with pictures, paintings and meaningful stories that reflect reality. We are trying to teach them concepts of tolerance, brotherhood and peace.
Q: What are your ambitions for the magazine?
A: We have entered our first year of establishing Tayarat Waraq. We are now trying to finish a website that contains all the old editions of the magazine.
Q: What kind of challenges are you facing?
A: The main difficulty is dealing with the finances of printing and distributing. Another big challenge is figuring out how to support our staff, which is currently made up of all volunteers.
Q: Have you found funding?
A: Most of the staff are volunteers. There are also kids supporting the magazine from inside Syria. As for financial support, we currently do not have any.