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Wathiqat Wattan Invites The Syrians to Write Their History Themselves to Avoid Distortion

DAMASCUS, (ST)- The most important objective of Wathiqat Watan (Homeland Document), a national non- governmental and non-profit organization launched in 2016, is to disseminate the culture of oral history in order to preserve the national memory from loss or distortion through collecting and studying information about important events and individuals to build an archive of documented testimonies which serve as a credible reference that will be available to all to know about what happened in Syria in all domains, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, the Chairperson of the Organization's Board of Trustees has underscored.

During a symposium held recently to identify the Wathiqat Wattan's competition "Hekayati" (my story) for the best true short story, Shaaban said that the organization's project of documenting the war on Syria aims mainly at obtaining the best methods that protect the history of the homeland and that complete the sacrifices of the martyrs and the wounded.

The symposium outlined the mechanism of participating in the competition and the conditions that should be available for a story to be accepted and get the award.

 Over the past period, Wathiqat Wattan has  put special focus on documenting the heinous war on Syria through inviting all the Syrians inside the country and abroad to take part in writing the modern Syrian history themselves, Dr. Shaaban said during the symposium, pointing out that the organization has received a lot of messages from many people who documented their own experiences during the war.

She added that traditional history has focused on military, political and religious aspects, "this makes us lose a lot of things and events that are worth being documented. So in order not to lose more we in the organization have been keen to promote oral history through documenting all kinds of events, including the cultural and artistic ones."

According to Shaaban, oral history is important to get true stories about events that touches the minds and the hearts of people, and it is more credible than the traditional history which was written by some people who might not even witness the historical events they wrote about.

In its strive to write oral history, Wathiqat Wattan depends in its work on researchers and  well-trained team of interviewers and experts as well as on volunteers. This team conducts highly professional interviews with people who have experienced or witnessed the war events in Syria. The process starts with recording people's testimonies and then transcribing them. In the next stage, these stories are subjected to analysis and research based on specific standards and then they get adopted.   

Also, during the symposium, the Director of projects section at the organization Mousa al-Khouri talked about the importance of oral history as it gets the truth from the mouths of people not from other sources.

On their parts, Members of the Wathiqat Wattan's Board of Trustees Mohammed Tagous and Fadi al-Esber affirmed that Wathiqat Wattan is a pioneer organization in the Arab world, clarifying that repeated information about incidents and intersected data help researchers specify the authenticity of the story.

Jancit Qazan, Head of the Board of Trustees of "Soreyoun" (Syrians) organization, called for active participation in giving oral testimonies because the themes of such testimonies may benefit others, particularly women.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
It is noteworthy to mention that Wathiqat Wattan is participating in the 61st Damascus International Fair.

Talking to Syriatimes e-newspaper about the goal of the participation, Eyad Zghaybi, from the media team of the organization, said that Wathiqat Watan wanted  to be present in the Fair to introduce "Hekayati" initiative which invites every Syrian  who experienced a certain incident to tell about it in order to be documented.

"We aim to reach as large a category of people as possible in order to promote Wathiqat Wattan project and help document more stories about what happened in our country," Zghaybi added.

On the conditions of participating in "Hekayati" competition, Zghaybi said that the story should be short -no more than 1000 words- and written in Arabic. The topic of the story should be a real event or incident with specific date and place. It should contain humanitarian themes and values.

A story can be sent as written text to the e-mail of Wathiqat Wattan or as an audio tape via whatsapp, he added.

According to Zghaybi, the war on Syria is only one of the axes of the organization's work. Other projects include antiquities, the church heritage, the Arabic language and the Syrian popular food. But for now , focus is being put on the war, he said.

The aim of the competition is to reactivate the cultural life in Syria and supply Wathiqat Wattan with more oral history interviews in order to conduct research on them.

The competition excludes stories that are based on imagination as well as the already published stories and other stories that include insults or violate laws and public manners.

He said that "we make sure that a story is true based on the standards of oral history. These standards judge the story from all its sides and they also assess the credibility of the witness."

Applications for participating in Hekayati Competition continues till September 22nd, he concluded.The top three winners will get their prizes during an honoring ceremony as follows: the best story gets the golden prize, which is 300 thousand Syrian pounds, winner of the second place takes 200 thousand SYP and the third place gets 100 thousand SYP.
 Report and interview by Hamda Mustafa