The connection between literature and the refugee’s crises

תמונה10Vered Cohen Barzilay speech at Bookcity Milan 2015


Ladies and Gentleman, distinguished members of the panel, Mr. Ruggero Gabbai.

It is an honor for me to return to Bookcity Milano and stand here again in front of you.

2 Years ago, we conducted our first event in Italy – the “Power of Literature and Human Rights”. We discussed the war in Syria and expressed our hope for a rapid solution. We even allowed ourselves, and the audience, to dream about a new middle east offering our own personal ME background as an evidence for a regional peace that is not beyond the world’s ability.

Nevertheless, reality got different plans for our dreams. Syria’s civil war intensified and became to be the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. 220,000 people have been killed so far, half of them are believed to be civilians, and hundreds of them are children. The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million Syrians’ are internally displaced. When one is also considering refugees, more than half of the country pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.

For too long the world has been silent. World’s leaders hoped that Syria would resolve its internal crisis without interrupting world order. They even overlooked the deadly journey to safety in Europe that refugees had to endure on a daily basis.

However, the war in Syria continued as well as the Middle East instability, and so the number of refugees grew enormously until the world could not ignore them anymore.

It is easier to close our eyes to horror especially when we de-humanize people. When they do not have a name, an image, a story, people become just numbers and even if millions of them needs our help or protection, we are not able to understand or identity with their suffering.

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