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January 06, 2019 : Professor Scott Minar Performs "Leaves from Aleppo"

by Sarah Shy


Dr. Scott Minar, Professor of English at Ohio University Lancaster, recently collaborated with Dr. Philip Terman of Clarion University, and writer and translator Professor Saleh Razzouk of the University of Aleppo in Syria, to make a multi-media presentation called “Leaves from Aleppo.” Dr. Minar, along with Dr. Terman, presented “Leaves from Aleppo” at Pittsburg’s City of Asylum, and at Clarion University.


“Leaves from Aleppo” is inspired by Dr. Minar and Dr. Terman’s correspondence and collaboration with Dr. Razzouk while he lived and worked through the siege of the city of Aleppo, which has been called “a small Holocaust,” during the Syrian Civil War. During this time in Syria, it is estimated 31,000 people have died, 13.5 million people required humanitarian assistance, and many hundreds have gone missing including Dr. Razzouk’s son.


Dr. Minar and Dr. Terman’s presentation, delivered as a visual and audio collage, is a mixture of lecture, drama, and literary reading. It blends emails—which are recorded by Dr. Razzouk—videos, photographs, poetry, and music. It presents eye-witness, real-time accounts of how one human-being attempts to survive and make sense of his conditions while experiencing the horrors of war.


“As both his translation partners and fellow writers, Dr. Terman and I explore the connections between us—two Midwestern Americans and Saleh, a Middle Eastern Arab—and how writing and art transcend borders to arrive at a more humane place where friendship proves to be stronger than global or cultural antipathy.” said Dr. Minar.


Both Dr. Minar and Dr. Terman had been communicating with Dr. Razzouk for years. They were drawn to the subject because Dr. Razzouk’s emails from Syria were “so striking, so dramatically poetic, and so often heartbreaking,” according to Dr. Minar. Because of this, they decided to create a way to share the communication between each of them for the public to experience.


“Our hope is to engage in some unofficial diplomacy, some culture diplomacy and the dissemination of information about conditions in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, with a focus on Saleh’s life, thinking, and work,” said Dr. Minar.


It was through a request by Dr. Razzouk asking Dr. Terman if he might translate a poem written by Dr. Terman into Arabic that the two met. Dr. Terman is one of America’s foremost Jewish-American poets, and Dr. Razzouk is a secular Muslim living in Syria. 


“It was a remarkable, very human moment. Since then, Phil and I have also helped to translate into English and publish here and in London a considerable amount of Saleh’s own writing as well. We are partners in this sense, and the work is both constant and a joy. Saleh has introduced Phil and I to Syria poets whom we now love and admire greatly. He has personally been responsible for disseminating significant amounts of Syrian poetry here,” said Dr. Minar.


Dr. Minar hopes that through their presentation, attendees will gain more information about the brutal conditions of war in Syria and the idea that friendship is a great equalizer and peacemaker.


“Often, we have far more in common with others around the world than we may think or know,” said Dr. Minar.


Dr. Minar is grateful for the support Ohio University has given him and his work while he has been employed as a professor: “It is sometimes not easy to see the value of literature studies and language work. But in this case, I think that value is easier to see and quite compelling, so Phil and I think and believe.”  


Minar has a Ph.D in American Literature and Creative Writing from Ohio University. He taught his first class, as a graduate student, in 1979 and has been a tenured English professor at Ohio University Lancaster since 2000.