Volunteers in the city of Qamishli in northern Syria have concerned themselves with establishing a cultural and educational centre for children. The centre focuses on helping children get rid of their memories of war.
The Kes-Khatoun centre in Qamishli, northeastern Syria, has opened to educate and rehabilitate the children of the city through culture.
The centre is fulfilling the need for cultural development for children in the region. This is unlike many of the other rehabilitation projects for Syrian children affected by war and the rule of ISIS, which primarily focus on providing psychological support and therapy.
“Through our team we organise motivational activities, such as reading books for children,” said one of the centre’s teachers. “We try to spread cooperation amongst them [the children]. We do that through different activities like special games and we also try to develop their talents such as drawing and sculpting.”
Reading stories to children forms an essential part of the children’s ongoing rehabilitation, as it helps them to put aside their memories of war, in addition to the loss of loved ones that many will have experienced. Stories are read to the children by a storyteller, who also provides the children with their own copy of the book that has been produced in Qamishli.
Unlike many other areas in Syria’s northeast, Qamishli was never occupied by ISIS, despite the militants carrying out a number of attacks in the city. As a result, the children in the city were not subjected to the militant’s indoctrination and recruitment through education strategies. However, the children have not escaped the psychological effects of Syria’s seven year conflict, which has severely interrupted their education and development.
Qamishli itself has been largely conflict free since a ceasefire agreement was reached in April 2016 by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) . Following the agreement, the SAA and its allies retained control of a small section of the city, including its airport, with the YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) controlling the rest.
The relative peace in the city has allowed initiatives such as the Kes-Khatoun centre to be established and provide the city’s youth with a welcome respite from the long-term effects of living in a war-torn country. Moreover, the return of many of the city’s children to education provides a sense of normality and prevents them from further missing out on their crucial education and development years. The centre has a number of additional plans for the near future, which include camping trips and holding workshops for children with special needs.