Refugee camps holding the displaced people of Afrin, Syria, were the site of the Lilon Film Festival last month. The festival aimed to signal to the displaced, to Syria, and to the international community that Afrin’s culture is still alive and well among those who fled Afrin after the 2018 Turkish invasion and ongoing occupation of the canton. The festival’s slogan was, “a flower alone does not constitute a garden.”

Screenings of 58 films selected by festival organizers took place from September 21 through September 27 in the al-Shahba canton. The festival received over 2,000 submissions from many countries. The screenings occurred in the Berxwekhdan and Serdem camps in al-Shahba canton. These camps hold over 7,000 of the displaced persons of Afrin, the canton of North and East Syria that was invaded by Turkey in early 2018 and has remained under a brutal and violent occupation.

“Our resistance continues, and we pledge our people to protect our culture,” said Hanan Sido, Co-Chair of the Culture and Art Authority in Afrin region, one of the organizers of the festival, speaking of the imperative of cultural activities among the displaced of Afrin.

The festival was planned to begin on the United Nations World Peace Day, September 21. World Peace Day is a day that the United Nations “invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.”

“Afrin, with its culture, tolerant spirit and love for the message of life, embraced all spectrums of Syrian people,” said Mohailddin Arslan, film director and member of the festival’s administrative committee. “It was the best mother for every Syrian who lived in it, so it was targeted for the sake of this culture and this humanitarian message, to face various types of weapons with a culture of art and tolerance, to fight the occupation with a call for cultural dialogue, to launch an international festival in displacement camps and to call for tolerance and peace on the International Peace Day. All of this means that we are proceeding with the resistance that lasted for 58 days with bare chests, against the invaders’ hordes, and their ambitions for people, trees, and even stone.”