SYNOPSIS AND POSITION
Eight kilometers south of Damascus city center located Yarmouk camp, the biggest unofficial Palestinian refugee camp comparing to 12 others in Syria and 68 camps in the Middle East. There are disputed sources regarding the number of people living there, However, in some estimations, the camp is argued to have about 600.000 people.
Today the camp stands empty after being massively destroyed between 2013 and 2018. After 2018 the Syrian government has indicated that Palestine refugees will be allowed to return to the camp in the future. The procrastination by the Syrian government continued till June 2020 when Damascus municipality announced the approval of the new masterplan Nr. 105 of Yarmouk camp.
The municipality prepared an evaluation plan for the status of the building, on which it proposes that only 40% of the building could be reused while 60% of the camp area has to be razed to the ground and rebuilt according to the new Masterplan. The plan ignored the core identity of the camp erasing some of the main streets that shaped the memory of the camp and represented the main economic veins and gathering points for its communities.
Over 10,000 objections were submitted by the former inhabitants, Palestinian organisations, and civil communities, forcing Damascus municipality to put the plan on hold in September 2020.
There is a need to shift the discussion over the Yarmouk camp from the technicality of the master plan and reconstruction towards more empathy and understanding of the importance of the camp as an essential component to the memory of both Palestinians and Syrians in Damascus city. Yarmouk is not only a refugee camp as perceived by many, rather than a historical milestone of the social cohesion between Syrians and Palestinians over 50 years of living together. This camp formed an incubator of interactions and co-existence between various communities.
OBJECTIVES AND METHODS
The project aims at telling the story of Yarmouk Camp, the biggest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria and the middle east. The storytelling approach aims to present the memory of this camp from a different perspective. A data-driven story by providing information about the history and development of this camp since its existence; a policy-driven story that is based on the policy issues regarding its reconstructing after the conflict in Syria, and an art-based story where artists will archive their memories about this camp through their lenses. The project aims to explore the level of engagement by urbanists, artists, and activists in the discourses of memory in Syrian cities and neighborhoods that are under threat of removal due to the so-called reconstruction. The project will form a baseline for a broader engagement on a regional level.
WORKSHOP AND EVENTS
- Raising awareness explainer (Graphics Interchange Format) to introduce Al-Yarmouk camp and shed light on its history, which role it had in Damascus city, and a briefing of the recently proposed reconstruction policies concerning it.
- Webinar on the memory of Yarmouk and the current challenges. This webinar will host members of Syrian organisations and urban activists as well as artists to share experiences and concepts about the memory Yarmouk and discuss collectively what is crucial, important, and relevant to preserve the identity of this camp. The webinar will be held online after the publication of the GIF.
- Competition of Pop-Art graphics: will be announced by the end of the webinar. The competition will be held online to submit one piece of Pop-Art graphics that captures one or more elements of the Yarmouk memory. The competition will take place over 6 weeks. A jury of 3 members and the Syrbanism team will evaluate the submitted works. There will be a symbolic financial prize for the winner. All works of the pop-art graphics will be used later in an online exhibition.