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[Nitobe Leadership Program Public Lecture] “Ideals” and “Reality” in Syria: Seeking Freedom and Peace


  • *This event has finished.
    • Lecturer: Najib El-Khash (Journalist / President of Risala Media Productions)
    • Date: Saturday, October 28, 2017, 1:30-3:00 pm
    • Venue: Lecture Hall, IHJ
    • Language: Only available in Japanese (without English interpretation)
    • Admission: Free (reservations required)
    What happened to the dreams behind the Arab Spring that spread throughout Arab countries from 2010? Why did it turn into a nightmare in Syria specifically? The war in Syria dislocated nearly a half of the Syrian population and turned them into IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) or refugees. Mr. El-Khash, a Syrian journalist, will talk about the current situation in Syria and what the Japanese and international community can do with regard to the Syrian crisis.

    Najib El-Khash (Journalist / President of Risala Media Productions)

    Born in Syria in 1973. Earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the American University of Beirut. Mr. El-Khash studied film production at the London Film Academy before coming to Japan in 1997. He then studied film theory at the Graduate School of the University of Tokyo and Nagoya University, specializing in the Nouvelle Vague in Japan, especially the works of Imamura Shohei. As the president of Risala Media Productions, Mr. El-Khash has traveled across Japan and Northeast Asia since 1998 to investigate news stories which he distributes to the Arabian and European media including al-Arabiya, Kuwait Television (KTV), Oman TV, Dubai TV, France 24 and al-Sharq al-Awsat. He started to cover the Tohoku region intensively after the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Has appeared on TV programs such as BS-TBS’s Gaikokujin kisha wa mita! [Through Foreign Journalists’ Eyes: Nippon in the World], “News Zero” and Terebishi o yurugaseta 100 no news [100 News Stories That Have Shaken the History of Television]. He also contributes to various cultural exchange programs as the head of the Arab Asia Network (A-Net). He served as an advisor at the Arab Film Festival in Tokyo (sponsored by the Japan Foundation) and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. Through organising the Arab Festival in Tokyo in 2008, Mr. El-Khash introduced jazz music and the culture of anime otaku in Arabian countries to Japan. He supervised the Arabian media at the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, and Expo 2012 in Yeosu. His current interest is in public diplomacy in the field of mega-events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Expo 2020 in Dubai. Mr. El-Khash also supervised educational and cultural programs at the Kuwait Embassy in Japan.

  • Risala Media Official Website: risala.tv
  • Arab Asia Network Official Website (in Japanese) : arabasian.net

Program Report

Most media reports on Syria today portray brutal scenes of the ongoing civil war and armed conflict. These have given rise to common misperceptions about the country and the Arab world in general, noted Syrian-born journalist Najib El-Khash, who provided different images—of abundant nature and a rich history and culture—of his native land.

He pointed to the importance of first gaining a grasp of the Arab world to understand the current situation in Syria. Technically, the Arab countries are the 21 member states (plus Palestine) of the Arab League. Many people in Japan mistakenly assume that neighboring Turkey and Iran are also Arab countries and that the term Arab is synonymous with Islam. There is also a tendency to equate the region’s identity with the economic prosperity of Saudi Arabia and Dubai. The Arab countries show great diversity, he explained, in climatic conditions, political systems, religions, and historical development.

The Arab identity today, he emphasized, is linked not to religion but to the Arabic language, a development modeled on Europe’s historical experience. People in the Arab world may thus speak the same language but espouse different faiths. The destabilization of the region, he noted, has its roots in the tension between the region’s religious and nonreligious identities. “Gaining a true understanding of the Arab world,” El-Khash said, “requires an awareness of the diversity in each country’s historical and cultural evolution.”

In the second half of his lecture, El-Khash described the situation in the country today, noting that Syria’s internecine conflict—while usually depicted as a battle between religious groups—is in truth a propaganda war. Because global attention is focused on the Islamic State, there is little mention of the atrocities committed by the Bashar al-Assad regime. The truth is being distorted by the president’s Western dress and demeanor, which cloak the massacring of his own citizens, said El-Khash, who also described the motives behind the military intervention by Iran and Russia.

What is the “Nitobe Leadership Program”?

The Nitobe Leadership Program (Nitobe Kokusai Juku in Japanese) started in 2008 to train young professionals from various organizations and corporations to become public-minded leaders, equipped with a broad perspective to function in an international environment both in and outside the country. The program invites professionals of various fields to speak on their experiences, allowing participants (Nitobe Leadership Fellows) to deepen their understanding of such themes as globalization and leadership. This year, Fellows will consider the theme, “The World in Confusion: Exploring a New World Order.” Some of the lectures are open to the general public.