As soon as the guns fall silent in Syria, the people will begin to rebuild their country and their lives – this is the strong conviction of Tareq Emtairah, a reader at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE). For that reason, he and his colleagues are starting visionary workshops in which exiled researchers and Lund University researchers will sketch out an outline for a sustainable future.
The University, IIEE and the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies presented the idea to interested departments at a workshop in February.
“From the perspective of the University and the researchers, we have the luxury and the opportunity to go beyond the current crisis, look forward and think long term. That’s why this project is so important”, emphasises Tareq Emtairah. “By engaging researchers in exile, we can give them a place where they can think freely about the best way to build a future.”
The vision workshops are intended to attract refugees from all over Sweden, particularly researchers from Syria. However, the concept has a broader scope.
“There are many conflicts in today’s world, such as those in Syria, Iraq and Libya”, says Tareq Emtairah. “The same exercises from the visionary workshops could be used in other areas where there is physical or social trauma, not only for today’s conflict zones but also for tomorrow’s. How can we rebuild a country in a sustainable way? This type of knowledge could be an asset for Lund University.”
The crucial aspect now is to mobilise the University and make things happen. Tareq Emtairah sees a lot of expertise and opportunities for interaction in diverse areas of research such as technology, architecture, sociology, political science, and peace and conflict studies. He is also seeking confirmation from the University management that could give researchers the resources to finance the required period of work.
“We gain so much from this – not least opportunities to develop new research projects and apply multidisciplinary cooperation to these issues.”
It is hoped that the visionary workshops can also find answers to questions such as what type of tools the researchers need, and how knowledge could be conveyed to leading players in the conflict zones.
“If we tell the stories again and again, they can sink in somewhere in the political process or among the participants themselves. One of our goals is to put back knowledge. I was inspired by how the Chilean refugees who came to Sweden in the 1970s returned and actively contributed to the economic and political life of Chile, while also staying in contact with Sweden.”
Text: Bodil Malmström
Photo: Gunnar Menander