In March 2015, twenty-five students at Yarmouk Private University (YPU) in Damascus, Syria organized TEDxYPU, an event designed to bring a sense of hope and community to a city in the midst of civil war. The organizers of the event wrote an op-ed on the TED Blog explaining why they were holding the event in the face of conflict, loss and sadness.
Across the world in Taiwan, the organizer of TEDxTaoyuan Wu Yi-Hsuan, found the essay and was moved by the team’s bravery. He had the essay translated into Chinese and sent it to TEDxTaoyuan volunteers, hoping it would inspire them as they planned the event.
Not long after this, there was an attack in Damascus. Yi-Hsuan worried about the TEDxYPU team’s safety. He sent a Facebook message to Eyad Al-Khayat, one of the organizers, to ask if everyone was all right.
“Some days after the Facebook message was sent, [I received] a text back, then Eyad added me as friend,” Yi-Hsuan says. Al-Khayat and Yi-Hsuan started talking about Damascus and Taoyuan, about organizing events, about big ideas they hoped would change their communities. They became friends, though they never met in person. Soon, Al-Khayat introduced Yi-Hsuan to another Syrian TEDx organizer (of TEDxYouth@Jahez) Salam Al-Nukta, who was working on women’s rights in Syria, on empowering women in STEM and improving education in Syria.
After many more discussions between the three, Yi-Hsuan invited Al-Khayat and Al-Nukta to speak at his event in Taoyuan. To many people in Taiwan, “Syria” is a word that only brings up images of pain, misery and strife, Yi-Hsuan says. “Salam and Eyad admit they are the luckiest compared to those who are suffered in war-torn areas … [but] many Syrians show their [confidence] for society-rebuilding. I take these beautiful minds as representative of [hope] to Syria,” he says.
He hopes that hearing Al-Khayat and Al-Nukta speak about what they are doing in their home country, about their ideas, actions and hopes, will deepen people’s understanding of Syria, its culture, ideas, current crisis and future hopes.
“We are human, we share similar thinking,” he says. “[Syrians] are who we are. What Eyad and Salam do in Damascus is interesting and valuable.”
Below, a video TEDxTaoyuan created with Al-Khayat and Al-Nukta as a preview to their talk — with moments from their life in Syria:
TEDxTaoyuan will be held on December 25, 2016 at the Taoyuan Exhibition Center. You can follow them on Facebook for more information.