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Mideast art auction bids to help Syria's child refugees

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
updated 10:11 PM EST, Wed November 6, 2013
Part of the Syri-Arts auction for Syrian refugee children is this piece by Nermine Hammam, entitled "Dreamland II, Upekkha series." Part of the Syri-Arts auction for Syrian refugee children is this piece by Nermine Hammam, entitled "Dreamland II, Upekkha series."
Art for Syria's refugee children
Art for Syria's refugee children
Art for Syria's refugee children
Art for Syria's refugee children
Art for Syria's refugee children
Art for Syria's refugee children
Art for Syria's refugee children
  • Artists from across Mideast have donated piece for one-off public auction
  • Syri-Arts has organized event to raise funds to help Syrian refugee children
  • Bids can be made online while auction takes place on November 8 in Beirut
  • UN says that half of 2 million Syrian refugees are children

(CNN) -- When charity and creativity go hand in hand, the result can be a work of art -- quite literally.

Such is the aim of Syri-Arts, part of Lebanese non-profit organization Kayany, which is working to raise much needed money for Syrian refugee children by auctioning off 150 works of art.

For Nora Joumblatt, an art historian who is helping to spearhead the endeavor, the initiative makes perfect sense.

"The Mideast is home to a host of artistic talent and art is the universal language," she says.

We thought maybe we'd get 40 or 50 artists contributing so didn't expect this overwhelming response.
Nora Joumblatt, organizer of Syri-Arts auction.

An online auction, hosted by website, began October 30. A live auction, hosted by Sotheby's, will be held at 6pm on November 8 at the Beirut Exhibition Center, where the art is on display.

According to Syri-Arts, all the funds raised "will go to the benefit of Syrian refugee children to secure food, clothing, medication and schooling through reputable NGOs working on the ground."

"They are all donations," proudly declares Wassim Rasamny, one of the organizers, about the works of art being sold. "We have 150 artists stretching from North Africa to the Arabian Gulf ... who have so passionately donated their works."

Contributors include artists from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Morocco, and many other countries. While the organizing committee expected, and depended upon, generosity of spirit, they were still surprised by the outpouring.

Rania Matar\'s \'A Passage from the Koran.\'
Rania Matar's 'A Passage from the Koran.'

"We thought maybe we'd get 40 or 50 artists contributing," says Joumblatt. "We didn't expect this overwhelming response. This really shows how civil society is keen to help Syrian children."

Abdullah Murad\'s \'Untitled.\'
Abdullah Murad's 'Untitled.'

According to Syri-Arts, "the international community has failed in its collective responsibility towards the Syrian child. The children deserve immediate action to help alleviate the daily hardships they are facing in this colossal tragedy."

Gerard Avedissian\'s \'Danseuses du Sultan.\'
Gerard Avedissian's 'Danseuses du Sultan.'

According to the UN, at least 1 million of the over 2 million registered Syrian refugees are children.

"That is a staggering number," explains Joumblatt, who calls it "the tragedy of the 20th century."

Children are facing "catastrophic consequences" because of the escalating violence in Syria, according to UNICEF, which adds that "more than 4 million children are now affected by the brutal conflict."

Just recently the World Health Organization confirmed ten cases of polio among children in Syria, the first outbreak of the disease in the country since 1999.

"I don't think the international community realizes the state the Syrian children are in," says Joumblatt. "The threats of child labor or early marriage or trafficking ... I don't think the international community realizes that even their minimum needs aren't being met."

Joumblatt says the cause is important to her not just because she was born in Syria, but also because she was exiled from there as a child.

"This is a huge problem. And this is a whole generation Syria is at risk of losing," says Joumblatt.

Syri-Arts Beirut is organized in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, UNICEF, Save The Children International, Action Against Hunger, Syri-Art Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), and the Beirut Exhibition Center.

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