51 children with disabilities came together on the international day for children with special needs. Hosted in the city of Afrin in northwestern Syria, the children were part of al-Malak association or came from local orphanages.
The children took part in singing or sports events, with slogans such as “my steps towards a bright future are accomplished with your support” and “we get hope from you” pasted on the walls of the school gym where the event was taking place.
“I have just learned some songs by myself. I learned to sing by myself and draw on my own as well,” said one young boy following the celebration. “My brother used to draw at home and I learned from him. I am also learning to play the lute at the cultural centre.”
One of the organisers of the event also discussed how these occasions remain important for children who are often forgotten amidst other concerns both at the local and regional level.
“We send a message to organisations and associations abroad to provide support to this group, because we have special projects organised for them,” said the man. “We also have projects ready to be implemented, but we lack the capacity to implement them on the ground.”
In recent years, Afrin has undergone fluctuating periods of relative calm and high tension. Although the city and its surrounding countryside have avoided the worst of the Syrian Conflict, displacement has been high, particularly after the government forces retook the city of Aleppo at the end of last year.
Furthermore, Afrin is held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which neighbouring Turkey believes is linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), an organisation that Ankara has designated as a terrorist organisation for decades. Subsequently, shelling has been a frequent occurrence, along with the threat of a Turkish intervention and attacks towards the city in the near future.
It is therefore testament that these events and other cultural gatherings like the one held last week at the Aslan Art Centre can continue amidst the drums of war in the background.