Asfari Institute celebrates culture and welcomes new foundation CEO

​​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa,, Office of Communications​

The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship held its annual Culture Award ceremony, this year honoring winners of the short story competition. The ceremony was followed by an official welcoming of Asfari Foundation's new CEO, Saba Almubaslat, who joined the foundation this month to replace its first ever CEO, Marieke Bosman.

The Asfari Culture Award was founded by the AUB Asfari Institute in 2018 as part of its “Culture as Resistance" program. It offers annual support to individual and institutional initiatives in the field of culture within the Arab world. With a focus on short story writing this year, 55 submissions were made, out of which 47 were eligible as meeting the required criteria.

The awarding ceremony announced the two winners who shared the first prize and read their work to the audience: Hassan Joudeh and Anas Nassief.

“I have won prizes for cultural and literary accomplishments before but this award has great sentimental value," said Joudeh, a Syrian researcher at Amsterdam University of Applied Science.  “I did not expect to win as this is my first time experimenting with using my poetic style in writing prose and short stories."

“I was drawn to this competition because of its focus on short stories, they are capable of delivering the deepest of meanings and messages through the briefest of means," said Nassief, a Syrian resident of Qatar who holds a master's degree in philosophy from Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

The selection committee was composed of Ibrahim Samuel, a Syrian writer and Arabic teacher who has published five collections of short stories; Ibrahim Abdel Maguid, an award-winning Egyptian novelist and author; and Hassan Daoud, a Lebanese novelist and journalist. The judges expressed their pleasure to see short story writing receive the attention it deserves and infrequently receives. Dr. Abdel Maguid and Dr. Daoud spoke about the surprising styles and artistic expressions of suffering and pain that were sensed in most of the competing texts.

“This award honors intellectual work in general, and is not specific to one type of literary work," said Dr. Hassan Abbas, director of the “Culture as Resistance" program at the Asfari Institute.

“It is our pleasure to support cultural capabilities and initiatives that have been marginalized or chased out so we can create a new generation of Arab intellectuals who are independent from their governments and their will," said Dr. Dina Khawaga, director of Asfari Institute. 

“Despite the suffering within the region, words still express reality," said Saba Almubaslat, Asfari Foundation's new CEO. “As we celebrate stories that have been told, let us make it a moment to remember stories that have not been told or spread."

The Asfari Foundation mission is to ensure good education for young people from the Levant and the UK, to support them to work together to create positive change, and to strengthen civil society in their communities and countries.

Almubaslat has over 25 years of experience in the humanitarian and development sector. Prior to joining the Asfari Foundation in May 2019, she was CEO at the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, where she established a global network of Academy Centers and over 80 organizational partners committed to leading the localization agenda for the humanitarian sector. Before this, she was the country director for Save the Children International in Jordan, where she was a strong advocate for disadvantaged communities and ensured the rights and futures of children and young people were at the forefront of the humanitarian agenda. During this period Almubaslat also played a crucial role in coordinating the response of 45 humanitarian organizations to the Syrian crisis.

“All our stories within the Arab world have been short stories, it is indeed important to celebrate this kind of literary art," said former CEO, Marieke Bosman.

Bosman was the foundation's first ever CEO. During her tenure as CEO, thousands of children and young people were supported with scholarships and through education projects. The foundation also supported many civil society organizations with grants, advice, and capacity building. The foundation stated that when Marieke joined in 2011, AUB trustee Ayman Asfari and Sawsan Asfari were keen as founders to create a partnership with AUB given its important role in the region. The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship was founded in 2012 to strengthen civil society in the region. ​

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