Syria: Children’s magazines struggling to survive
“Annub,” the self-confident Syrian boy, is still playing with the children, but at discontinuous and long durations, suggesting ideas and looking for solutions in colorful thinking hats, including the red ones that represent feelings, the white ones that point to facts and the black ones that give a critical role.
The aforementioned is a game presented by Tayara Warak magazine for Syrian children, led by the character of the boy “Annub,” who once found a lost wooden box, and decided to deal with it through the hats that encourage the child to think critically and make decisions in such coincidences.
Tayarat Warak is considered one of the most important and among the first released children’s magazines. It has sought to communicate with the child, the most affected party from the war, in an attempt to keep him away from the effects of the circumstances in which he has been living and to surround him with positive principles and values with which he would look forward to a better future. Unfortunately, the magazine is currently facing obstacles, most notably the low printing finances, which prevent their periodical issuance and reaching children.
In its issue No 262, released in February 2017, Enab Baladi published an article on the path of children’s press in the “liberated” Syrian areas, the reasons that led to their curtailment and the decline of their issuance, the effects of this on the child who is witnessing the war and living under pressure that surrounds him, as well as the subsequent defects in the new Syrian media’s function due to the suspension of this category of press.
In a recent monitoring of children’s magazines, which Enab Baladi has conducted based on the Syrian Prints Archive, it was found that Ataa and Tayara Warak have been the two magazines that continued to be released along with Ghiras and Khotoat Saghira magazines.
Campaign that failed to reach the goal
Based on the current reality of children’s press, it seems that the magazines that have continued to be released to this day will not resist for a long time, because this is related to the financial factor, and the financial support covering the printing and publishing costs within Syrian territories, or in the neighboring countries where Syrians are living.
These conditions have not been limited to children’s press. Other media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, websites and radios stations, have also faced financial crises after the cessation of the support provided by the organizations, leading to the suspension of work of a large number of them.
Tayara Warak had completely discontinued, in the beginning of 2017, for financial reasons that are the basis of printing support. It has nevertheless resumed its release in a disrupted manner. Over the past two years, it has released five new issues, most recently in January this year, according to its Editor-in-Chief Asma Balagh.
As a step to cover the printing expenses, Hurras Network for children support launched, on December 4, a campaign called “Kites Not Shells” on Cando platform to support Tayara Warak magazine in purchasing a printer. It succeeded as a start in reaching 50 percent of its goal within just one week.
Hurras Network had set a goal to reach 52.677.87 pounds sterling, and set the donation to start from 15 pounds sterling and above.
The goals of the campaign were limited to raising a fund to purchase and operate a printer so that Hurras Network would be able to print unlimited copies of Tayara Warak, which was firstly released in March 2013.
According to the Editor-in-Chief, a small portion of the amount will be used to produce a single issue of the magazine to participate in an awareness campaign that will help mobile psychosocial support teams reach at least 12,000 children to convey basic child protection messages such as mine risks awareness, forced underage marriage, and child labor.
Balagh explained that the campaign lasted for three months, and ended on January 9, but it failed to achieve its goal.
The Editor-in-Chief said that the topics covered in the new issues complement what the magazine has started, with more emphasis on stories and topics that provide psychological support for children, noting that the magazine is distributed inside Syria in the north for schools and educational centers.
During its path in the past years, Tayara Warak has sought to provide content that enriches the child’s language and vision through the stories he reads and the drawings he sees.
Ataa Magazine is on top… The support is continuing
Ataa Magazine did not face the same financial crisis as Tayara Warak, which has helped its continuity until today. However, each year, the magazine waits for its turn to face the same hardships other children magazines went through, especially that Ataa Magazine is targeting limited geographical areas, namely, Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo and some Turkish provinces.
Ataa Magazine is issued every three months by Ataa Association for Relief and Development, targeting the age group from nine to 15 years.
According to the editorial secretary, Ghada Matarmawi, the magazine is distributed in Istanbul, Bursa, Konya, Mersin, Antakya, Reyhanlı, Gaziantep and Urfa, in addition to the north of Syria, Idlib and its countryside and the western, northern, and eastern countryside of Aleppo countryside (Jarabulus and Afrin), as well as the countryside of Hama and Reef North Coast.
Ataa Magazine has distributed 40.000 copies of each issue, which are 13 to date, in addition to the experimental number of copies. The total number of distributed copies is 500.000 so far, according to Matarmawi.
She told Enab Baladi that the magazine aims at emphasizing the diversity of its subject matters, including educational materials, entertainment, thrill and adventure through narrative stories, and scriptural stories (Ataa diaries and Doaa diaries), as well as historical pages (wandering with Yakout) and scientific subjects ( the genius thinker).
Additionally, the magazine provides entertainment sections (riddles, jokes, and fun club) and Turkish language sections; in addition to interactive pages, such as readers ‘mail and Ataa friends’ corner, which publish children’s drawings, pictures, and literary as well as scientific contributions.
Matarmawi added that “the suspension of this type of magazines means depriving children of educational and entertainment means. We are trying to get support in order to ensure the continuity of the magazine and turn it into a monthly magazine. With Allah’s help, we will continue to give.”
“We keep in mind that we can continue despite the constraints and lack of support, and, we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of Ataa Magazine, if Allah wills it,” Matarmawi asserted.
According to the correspondent of Enab Baladi in the province of Idlib, Ataa Magazine is mainly distributed on the orphans who are sponsored by Ataa Association for Relief and Development in several areas. The correspondent explained, quoting a family living in Atme camp, that children in the camps are no longer interested in magazines now, especially with the problem of dropping out of schools, and the fragility of the education sector in the liberated areas.
The magazine contains pictures, riddles and questions, which are directed to its young readers. These sections contribute to the support and development of the child at psychological and educational levels, playing the role of an educational adviser.
Kharbout is one of the most prominent figures of Ataa Magazine. This character helps the child to learn the Arabic language including letters, phrases, and subordinators, as well as verbs and proper names etc.
Matarmawi indicated: “We are looking for new and useful information and then we design it with a beautiful artistic template. It is worth mentioning that the magazine is distributed in some İmam Hatip schools in Antakya, as requested by KİLİS 7 ARALIK University, Faculty of Science and Arts, Department of Oriental Languages and Literature, sub-department of Arabic Language and Literature, in order to teach Arabic to non-native speakers.”
Ghiras Magazine and Khotoat Saghira Magazine
Ghiras Magazine and Khotoat Saghira Magazine are now issued together with Tayara Warak Magazine and Ataa Magazine, at the same pace as before, yet with similar fears of cutting off financial support, which has become a concern for all media and humanitarian projects supported by NGOs in Syria.
The last issue of Ghiras Magazine appeared on 9 January. It contained stories and adventures, as well as jokes, stimulating and mental games, in addition to educational and cultural sections.
Ghiras Magazine was first published as a children magazine in Aleppo in July, 2014 by Ghiras Child Care and Development Foundation. The magazine addresses children aged from six to 14 and covers a variety of educational and entertainment subjects.
In an interview with the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Fatin Abu Laban, she said, “the magazine covers the regions of the north of Syria, the northern border camps, the villages of Hama, Aleppo and Idlib, as well as the Turkish city of Urfa.”
“As a funding source, the magazine relies on the protection and education projects employed by Ghiras Child Care and Development Foundation, which have the greatest impact on the magazine’s survival, because it does not depend on external funding”, Abu Laban added.
As for Khotoat Saghira Magazine, the 30th and most recent issue appeared in February, 2018. One of the highlights of this issue was the story of the “duck and its three daughters,” which was accompanied by attractive images, as well as details that revolve around the duck “Mashmousha, a light brown duck with a beautiful apricot chest.
In an interview with the engineer, Hani Shuwaikh, one of the founders of the magazine, he explained that “the staff of the magazine have a great insistence on the need for continuity, and they are aware of the importance of the magazine in restoring some of the social values destroyed by the war, and keeping children away from the atmosphere of violence.”
Shuwaikh called for “more care and support for these educational experiences regarding for their role in building the personality of the child ideologically, spiritually, and behaviorally.”