Omar Hikmat Khouli

19 April 2013

The Syrian revolution witnessed the birth of many talented youth who found in their cry for freedom the chance to express their creativity, long stifled under a reign of tyranny. The young poet Omar Hikmat Khouli is a perfect example. Khouli was born in the city of Homs in 1990. He is an artist of many talents: he writes prose and classical and modern poetry, he has written several articles and reportages, and is also a musician and photographer. Khouli wrote his first collection of poems in 1996 following the shock of his father's death. After that, he started writing short stories. In 2009, Khouli managed to publish a collection of poems in Egypt, titled "When I Visited Fate.” He has several other collections in the process of being published, including “Books of The New Orient,” “Nour,”and “The Distant and What is Beyond You.”

When the Syrian uprising broke out in the beginning of 2011, the young poet carried his camera and set off to film his first documentary: “The Charm of Sufism.” The 55-minute film focuses on Sufism in Homs, Khouli’s hometown. He shot a number of other short films, including: “Homs, The Way I See It,” “Resurrection, AK-47,” and “Under The Revolution.” Khouli managed to shoot all these films under extremely dire circumstances and risked his life in the process. Khouli worked alone; he was the screenwriter, director, producer, photographer, and lighting director, and he also managed to distribute his films himself using YouTube.

“Resurrection” and “AK-47” received great media attention. French journalist Jerome Oliveira contacted Khouli and asked to broadcast the films on French television channels. These two films were his first shot-for-cinema movies to be shown on television after debuting on YouTube and Facebook.

Khouli decided to stay in Homs. In an interview with Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, he criticized those who left the revolution early on to find comfort in European coffee shops. He said, "Whether you are an artist or not, sometimes you are forced to leave even your skin behind, to save the lives of your family, your children, and those you love. The problem is that some of those who have chosen to leave were badly needed at home, and were members of the first wave of the revolution. I can't justify the actions of those who always paraded their sacrifices, fought back and participated in the revolution, and of whom we almost erected statues in our houses, and then all of a sudden, we found them sipping coffee at coffee shops on Champs-Élysées."

"I hope I will never have to leave Homs or Syria,” he added. “If a prophet is not honored in his own country, then for sure he will not be honored as a refugee elsewhere."

Despite the artist's grief over the destruction and the killing, he still believes in the struggle for freedom and believes that the the term "civil war" is still not applicable to Syria. He believes that the Syrian people have gone through many experiences that suggested war, but managed to thwart it. He hopes they won't let themselves down in the future.

To visit Omar Hikmat Khouli’s official website, click here.

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad