Refugees help put ancient Syrian glass collection on display in Scotland

Refugees help put ancient Syrian glass collection on display in Scotland
A woman walks in a pedestrian precinct in Helensburgh, Scotland, Britain, July 22, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 November 2020

Refugees help put ancient Syrian glass collection on display in Scotland

Refugees help put ancient Syrian glass collection on display in Scotland
  • Priceless objects from the dawn of glassmaking, dating back 2,000 years, found in museum

LONDON: A collection of ancient Syrian glassware is to be put on display in Scotland for the first time with the assistance of Syrian refugees.

The 30-piece collection dating back around 2,000 years was discovered in storage at a museum in the town of Paisley, Renfrewshire, where it is thought to have resided since 1948.

The museum, currently undergoing a £42 million ($55.38 million) refurbishment, decided to involve local Syrians who fled their country’s war in the display process, from labeling items in English and Arabic to providing context for the collection and explaining its significance today.

Refugee Jamal Horani said his family had owned their own modest collection of glass in Syria, but had been forced to leave everything behind when they fled the city of Homs. 

“I was so pleased to see these objects that had come from Syria to Scotland,” he added. “I don’t know how or why they came here but I feel very proud that we were able to make these masterpieces. It gave me some emotional thoughts about Syria.”

His sister Khadeja said: “To see them takes us back to old memories, when tourists would come from all over the world to buy our glass.”

Syria’s glassmaking industry was, until the outbreak of the war, revered worldwide for the skills of its artisans.

Horani’s wife Maryam said: “Syrian people are very sociable, with families visiting and eating together. We tend to keep special glass not for meals but for ornaments, which we can talk about to the younger generation and introduce them to their culture.”

The glassware collection is thought to have been bought from an antique dealer in Syria by the family of Elizabeth Spiers Paterson, before being bequeathed to the Paisley Museum in 1948.

Joel Fagan, a research assistant at the museum, said: “It’s incredible they (the items) survived. We could have just thrown them in a case but we didn’t feel that was acceptable. We wanted to bring the museum to the Syrian community.”

He added: “These objects come from a time when glass-blowing had only just been invented, but the glass industry has been booming in Syria continuously until the current conflict.”

Renfrewshire is home to around 200 Syrian refugees, with 28 children having been born to the community since it was established as part of the UK government’s official resettlement scheme in 2015.

“We didn’t know much about Scotland before we came, and we had some concerns about the weather and a new culture, but we’ve been able to get on well, make new friends, and now we’re part of the community as well as guests,” Horani said.

Khadeja said she hopes the display will let visitors see a different side of Syria’s history than the one they have become accustomed to in modern times.

“We’d like visitors to understand that we have a great civilization, and that our glassmaking is known across the world,” she added.


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2021

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.