Closing the Dutch Institutes in Bilad al-Sham

Nikolaos van Dam


In this article it is argued why the previous Dutch Government's decision in 2012 to close the Dutch Institutes in Damascus, Beirut and Amman was unjustified. The new Dutch government is called upon to reconsider its position. Many academics and students have profited extensively from the services and support of the institutes. They created a valuable bridge between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Western world and its values. They were of substantial value in adding to our possibilities of gaining further knowledge of, and experience in the Levant region. The apparently wide spread lack of empathy towards and understanding of Syria and the Syrians is to a great extent due to a lack of knowledge. This is exactly a field in which our institutes should be enabled to continue their important role. Instead of turning away from Syria during a period of severe crisis, it is of the greatest importance to keep our channels open. Finally, the factors which may have contributed to the existing lack of empathy towards the Syrians in general, are discussed.

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