After being forced to leave my country in January 2012, I arrived in the United States on a journey to a new life, a new home, and a new start...
Syria came with me on my journey and with it Syrian friends and colleagues, all of whom were obliged to be away from home physically, but not mentally. Many of us were earnest to give back to Syria from wherever we ended up in the world. So, my friends Caroline, Iyad and Mazen and I came together adamant on creating a platform for Syrian voices. A place where Syrians inside and outside could come together and re-build a new Syria, through the dialogue of thought, culture and the diversity that unites us as human beings. Quickly, more people we knew stepped up and joined the initiative. What was merely an idea became a reality in October of 2012, with the efforts of a full-fledge team of Syrians dispersed all around the world, including inside Syria. The team is composed from diverse backgrounds and different professionals such as journalists, scriptwriters, TV directors, theater experts, business and marketing professionals and many more.
SouriaLi was born as a result of long brainstorming sessions over Skype to create an independent non-profit platform providing a wider space for civic initiatives, true stories and a voice for all Syrians, one that we decided unanimously to call SouriaLi. Why? Because it translates into “Syria is mine” and also means “surreal”, two notions many Syrians relate to when it comes to Syria.
As a team we felt the need to narrate the strife of Syrians to help humanize the Syrian crisis without downsizing Syrians to mere numbers and statistics. We wanted to put out rather personal narratives of lives we as human beings universally relate to. These are the stories of a scarred people looking for justice and peace, trying to reach out and call for help, only to hear the echo of their voice. For that reason, such platforms need to be available for Syrians to tell their stories, until change is evident, until humanity wakes up.
Humanizing the Syrian crisis was not the only pillar for us as a radio broadcast platform, in parallel, independent and ethical journalism practices were and always will be of high priority for SouriaLi. In a time where media in the region are divided and polarized, SouriaLi provides a relatively middling ground and inclusive broadcast rather than a divisive one. Simply, ethical media is vital, because justice can only be achieved where truth is told. Unfortunately, the falsification and manipulation of the events taking place in the Middle East region (and Syria in particular) were extended to a variety of international media.
A more recent example is the fictitious viral film of a young Syrian boy saving a young Syrian girl as he was being sniped at, filmed by Lars Klevberg, The Norwegian Film Institute and Arts Council Norway. Such false broadcast undermines the dignity and suffering of Syrians and the children of Syria. Although, the filmmaker apologized publicly, such false accounts sabotage the professional ethics of journalists and civil activists who have risked their lives to archive and document the truth for the world to bear witness to.
As a team and family, SouriaLi calls for unity at a time where division prevails. It’s a challenge we face in our daily internal discussions and debates as a team and as a platform, persevering to build peace and unite communities in the midst of chaos and conflict, using one of the most powerful tools of war and peace: the media.
We believe that we have the right to speak the truth; however, attaining the freedom to do so is quite the challenge.
Honey Al-Sayed is an accomplished bilingual communications professional and radio and television journalist with a wide range of expertise in all aspects of media, art and culture consultancy, as well as media training and public speaking. After the outbreak of the Syrian uprising, Honey came to the United States and co-founded SouriaLi – an independent, nonprofit, online radio station where she works as a media consultant, host, and producer. She is also a co-founder of the RO’YA Association (“Vision for a Better Syria”). Independently, she works as a creative consultant advancing the interplay of art and cultural dialogue on advancing social and political change. She was part of the Spark Media team that won Best Documentary Feature, a Peer Gold and Accolade awards for Red Lines, a new, independent documentary on the Syrian revolution. For her efforts to promote a better future for Syria, she was awarded an Alumni Achievement Award by the Lebanese American University. Honey is currently attending the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and will complete her Masters in the spring 2015 in the Global Master of Arts Program in International Affairs.