A. David Lewis Leads the Way w/ ‘HAAWIYAT,’ a Free Comic for Syrian Refugee Children

Free Haawiyat Comic for Syrian Refugee Kids

The year-long Syrian conflict has displaced millions. From the horrors of Aleppo to the sheer struggle of the journey to safety, Syrians everywhere are fighting to survive, and the sheer numbers of children affected by this are catastrophic. A new hardship begins when a child makes it to their new home. Strange environments, foreign people, and often a new language make fitting in incredibly traumatic. This was the origin of the Syrian comic, Haawiyat. The comic will be 8 pages with a full color cover and published in Arabic. Filled with well-known Syrian folktales, this comic will bring children something that brings comfort, a taste of home, and will be something they can hold in their hands and say most unequivocally is their own.

If I was a doctor, I would pick up my medic bag. If I was a soldier, I would pick up a weapon. I am a professor, a comic writer, and a father.  I am helping where I can, how I can. Children are scared, disoriented, and feeling lost. We have to give them hope,” explained the project’s leader A. David Lewis. “This is phase one of a grand plan. We want to reach more kids in more places with phase two.”

An incredible team of creators and translators have volunteered to donate their time to create the title. Ka-blam Digital Printing will be creating the book gratis, Comicraft is donating a font, and Nadia Alawa’s renowned NuDay Syria will graciously distribute the book overseas as well as report on its effect. There are tentative plans to expand on this idea and their participation will be crucial.

Cover Sketch of Haawiyat

The purpose of  Haawiyat is to produce a free, Arabic-language comic book for displaced Syrian children.

With nearly half of the Syrian refugees being under the age of 12, this comic — entitled Haawiyat for the ships that bring supplies overseas for refugees — is intended to return to these children something, even as small as a physical comic book, in the wake of all that has been lost or left behind.

In conjunction with mental health experts and on-site experts, the content of Haawiyat consists of timeless Syrian folklore adapted into comics form and cultivated for its potential healing content. These tales, in standard Arabic for readers ages 6-12 or with supervision, are intended to deliver some measure of solace or narrative stability in their current situations. Moreover, the free item itself is meant to restore some small sense of value or control to their chaotic lives; whether it operates as a form of escapism, a source of inspiration, or an investment in their mental lives, Haawiyat redirects Global West’s concerns back to one of the most vulnerable populations of the ongoing conflict.

The stories to be included are The King’s Daughter’s Earring, The Miller and The Two Djinn, and The Story Of The Five Cakes. Each tale was specifically chosen for their trigger free nature and relevance to current issues children are most likely dealing with.

Creators include Rob Croonenborghs, Jim Shaw, Joseba Morales, Mexi Gremillion, and Ursula Murray Husted. Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studiosof  will be lettering and Farrah Hamza is translating. Initial drop sites for the comic include Northern Syria and Turkey. Shipping will begin in February. Are you a creator interested in participating in phase two? Email captionbox@gmail.com.

​Want to stay up to date on the project? Go to www.syriacomic.com

A. David Lewis earned his Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from Boston University and his M.A. in English Literature from Georgetown University while developing original graphic novels such as The Lone and Level Sands and Some New Kind of Slaughter. He is the co-editor of Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels and Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age. Lewis teaches in the Greater Boston area and was a 2015 Eisner Award nominee for American Comics, Literary Theory, and Religion: The Superhero Afterlife.  He is a founding member of Sacred and Sequential and an Executive Board Member for the Comics Studies Society.
*** info courtesy of syriacomic.com
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