Syria is a country with a proud history, rich culture, and valued traditions. Yet awareness of this heritage has been lacking in the United States. Similarly, American culture and values are often not fully understood in Syria.

Establishing trust, confidence, and understanding between the people of Syria and the United States is an objective of great importance to both countries.

To this end, the Open Hands Initiative launched its first series of targeted programs on August 1, 2010. These programs brought together the people of the United States and Syria for mutual celebration and education of each other’s respective cultures in the fields of music and disability. Future programming in Syria includes an Art Exchange program.

Program Details

  1. Disability & Accessibility

    The first ever international Youth Ability Summit was part of the inaugural launch of The Open Hands Initiative, which took place from August 1 to 3, 2010 in Damascus, Syria. The Initiative brought together 26 youth disability advocates from the United States and Syria for a series of workshops led by disability and comic book experts.

    The Summit was the first of its kind, bringing together American and Syrian youths to share their experiences, ideas, and culture, while creating strategies to promote the rights of youth with disabilities.

    Together, the youths created the world's first cross-cultural superhero: the "Silver Scorpion." The Silver Scorpion comic book was honored at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2010.

    In February 2011, the Silver Scorpion debuted at the Dar al-Assad Opera House in Damascus, Syria. More than one thousand people attended to watch the animated premiere. (You can watch the animated movie trailer here.) The comic book was later released in the United States on Free Comic Book Day on May 7, 2011. It can also be read for free online at Scribd.

    The Arabic version of the Silver Scorpion is expected to be distributed across Syria in schools and youth centers, as well as throughout the Middle East.

    As part of the Open Hands Initiative's efforts in the field of disability and accessibility, the Summit hosted a three-day writing workshop which produced the world's first cross-cultural guidebook for implementing the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities: "Ensuring Rights in Development". This crucial manual was authored jointly by disability experts from Syria and America.

    Ensuring Rights in Disability Guidebook
    Silver Scorpion Comic Book

  2. Music

    The second program part of the 2010 inaugural launch in Damascus was a music exchange, which facilitated the production, distribution, and exchange of local Syrian music, in an effort to encourage growth of the domestic amateur music scene in Syria while also sharing this music to American audiences. 

    Learn more about the 2010 Music Exchange Program, as well as our partners and participating musicians.

  3. Music Exchange

  4. Art

    The Open Hands Initiative has temporarily postponed its Syrian Art Exchange program.

    The Initiative hopes to bring acclaimed American artist Eric Fischl to Damascus to co-teach young Syrian artists with renowned Master Syrian artists, Mustafa Ali and Nizar Sabour.

    The artwork resulting from this workshop shall be exhibited in Syria and the US through partnerships with leading art galleries in both countries.