Syrian Swedish Democratic Network (SSDF)
With initial projects in 2011 and officially founded in 2019, the Syrian Swedish Democratic Network, or SSDF, wishes to build a coherent Syrian-Swedish community. They have four member organisations in Karlskrona, Gothenburg, Sweden and Malmö. Their primary activities involve the following activities.
Raising awareness: Among the Swedish community regarding the Syrian cause by initiating educational and cultural events, for example poetry readings, art exhibits, musical events and political discussions focused on Syria.
Sharing information: Among the Syrian-Swedish community with the ultimate goal of integrating democracy and human rights in all aspects of Syrian communities.
Fundraising: For other organisations in Syria, for example, the White Helmets.
Regional offerings: Gothenburg offers sports and camping excursions as well as legal advice. Stockholm members organise demonstrations, aid campaigns and fundraising events.
Social Media: None
Contact: Riyad alNajem / firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2018, Al Seeraj, a member of the Syrian Swedish Association in Malmö, hosted Ziad Kalthoum and Ali Alibrahim, directors of the films ‘The Taste of Cement’ and ‘One Day in Aleppo’ respectively, at a cultural event designed to foster “cultural awareness,” said Syrian activist May Samhouri, an activist at Al Seeraj.
Samhouri said that Swedes were generally sympathetic to the Syrian cause but that sentiment had changed after 2015, after the largest influx of Syrian refugees into Europe. “People who used to say hello stopped greeting me,” she recalled.“It is an easier way for people to understand the Syrian culture,” said Samhouri, who also organised an exhibit at Malmö University to showcase drawings of Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist Hani Abbas, who was born in a refugee camp near Damascus in 1977 and who has received numerous international awards for his art.
Entitled ‘Safe Path to Heaven’ the event was well-attended by the press and Samhouri explained in an interview with Swedish radio: “In Syria, people are starving, they are being tortured and imprisoned. At the same time, the chance is small that they get a visa to Europe or a safe country. The only safe way they can take goes to heaven, which means death.“
“We have to keep the Swedish people sympathetic to the Syrian cause,” Samhouri argued.The Swedish community has had one of the most welcoming policies towards Syrian refugees, and between 2013 up until autumn 2019, the country has granted asylum to all Syrians fleeing the crisis. Sweden also has a strong track record of supporting and facilitating the work of Syrian civil society actors, according to the SSDF.
To keep up the momentum and the public interest, the SSDF initiates community activities such as volleyball and camping in the Gothenburg branch and cultural events every two to three months in Stockholm.SSDF is still small, but is working to expand in membership and outreach.