The Battle for home inside Syria

26 May 2020

Artist and archaeologist Zahed Tajeddin and author Diana Darke use the prism of their historic courtyard houses – his in Aleppo, hers in Damascus – to give a rare first-hand glimpse into how people have battled to save and protect cultural heritage sites within war-zone areas today. As well as showing illustrations of their own restoration projects, they each offer an up-to-date perspective, via recent and regular visits, on the major cultural and societal changes that have taken place as a result of nine years of war. Zahed, whose family has lived in Aleppo throughout the war, talks about the challenges of reconstruction and how people are trying to rebuild their lives, even during a lockdown ‘virtual’ Ramadan. Diana, whose house is lived in by a restoration architect and his family, discusses the social and economic realities, including an overview of how the Coronavirus pandemic is being tackled across the country.

About the speakers:

Zahed Tajeddin is an archaeologist, conservator and sculptor; he was born in Aleppo – Syria, presently lives and works in London. He has degrees in Chemistry, Fine Art, an MA in Archaeology and PhD in Archaeological Science and Sculptural Practice. Since 2006, he is an honorary research associate at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Zahed has a special interest in history, ancient arts, architecture and culture heritage. He has worked on many archaeological excavations in the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin. He has various publications on arts and ancient materials’ science. He also participated in producing TV programs and podcasts for the BBC and Discovery Chanel. His artwork has been exhibited in the UK and internationally, at venues that include the Brazilian Parliament, Victoria & Albert Museum and Manchester Museum.

Diana Darke is an author and Syria expert with degrees in Arabic from Oxford University and Islamic Art & Architecture from SOAS. After living and working in the Middle East and Turkey for over 30 years, with both government and commercial sectors, she is now a fully independent commentator, asked to give numerous interviews to BBC radio and TV, PBS America, France 24, TRT and Al-Jazeera. She writes Syria features for The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times and Middle East Eye, broadcasts From Our Own Correspondent pieces for the BBC, and reviews books on Syria for both Chatham House’s The World Today and The TLS. Her book, My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis, now in its third edition, has final chapters describing her recent struggle to reclaim the house from war profiteers. She has been back seven times since the uprising began in March 2011 and remains actively committed to helping Syrians achieve a better future.

Webinar recordings

Watch the webinar on our YouTube channel.