A Syrian culture house called Hamisch, meaning 'margin' in Arabic, was opened in Istanbul through the initiative of a group of liberal Syrians who left their war-affected country behind to seek a new life in Istanbul's Beyoglu district on Monday. 

The Syrian civil war, which has devastated the lives of millions of Syrians and has seen over 100,00 people killed according to the UN along with the forced exodus of 2.5 million to seek shelter away from their home country, has just entered its fourth year this week.

The Syrian uprising has generated the need for Syrians to explore and express their cultural identity and values, and to question concepts related to homeland, exile, society, politics, art and culture. It is said that the culture house will announce its programme of events in the following weeks. 

“What is most characteristic of Hamisch is that we have critical way of thinking. One of our main goals is to maintain our freedom. There are various political institutions with different aims, but not many cultural organizations that promote critical thinking and a libertarian view,” said Yassin Alhaj Saleh, one of the founding members of Hamisch, who calls himself a Syrian opponent writer. He was arrested in 1982 in Syria due to his leftist- liberal political views when he was studying medicine and he was placed under arrest for over 16 years. He later wrote about his life in a book. 

The culture house has no president, being formed as a foundation and comprising of Turkish, French and Arab members. Saleh said Hamisch has no affiliation with any political parties in Syria or Turkey, and has garnered support from individuals in Europe and the Gulf region. Another founding member of Hamish is Turkish musician Ozhan Onder who affirms that the foundation supports all non-violent cultural and art events, adding that it has no political identity. 

Ozhan says that the foundation is based on real human experiences and aims to tear down 'artificial walls' of intellectualism and politicism.    

In its motto in Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, English, Armenian, and French, it describes Hamisch as a new independent 'space-in-exile' for critical debate, exchange and the communication of ideas, experiences and practices in the field of culture.

It is also a venue for collaboration and partnership between artists, academicians, intellectuals and writers from Syria, Turkey and elsewhere. Hamisch seeks to foster deeper understanding of Syrian society and culture.