An Evening in Damascus: A Fundraiser for Queer Syrian Refugees

By Casey Stepaniuk

If you’re looking for an event in this busy Pride month of June that is both meaningful and entertaining, look no further than An Evening in Damascus. It’s your chance to support queer Syrian refugees coming to Vancouver as well as experience an unforgettable night of delicious authentic Syrian food, Middle Eastern belly dancing, and storytelling by queer former Syrian refugees.

Author of The Clothesline Swing and former Syrian refugee, Danny Ramadan tells stories at last year’s event | Image provided by Danny Ramadan

You might remember this occasion from previous Junes, as 2017 is the third year the event has taken place. The fundraising event raises money that goes equally to two sponsorship groups: The Divine Road, a group sponsoring two Syrian women to come to Canada, and Journey to Canada, a group supporting two sisters from Syria as they integrate into Canadian society. Both of these groups are supported by and linked to the work done by Rainbow Refugee Society, a local Vancouver community organization that has, since 2000, supported and assisted LGBTQ2+ and/or HIV+ asylum seekers, refugee claimants, and refugees in Canada.

At this year’s event, An Evening in Damascus is partnering with Tayybeh: A Celebration of Syrian Cuisine, a new organization and business run by Syrian women who cook delicious and authentic food from their Syrian hometowns at special community dining events like An Evening in Damascus. While Tayybeh is a source of income for the women, it is also meant as a group where community-building is facilitated both between Syrian women and Syrian women and the larger Vancouver community. A little bit of information behind the name is provided on their Facebook page: “The word ‘tayybeh’ in Arabic is the feminine construction that means “kind”, and in the colloquial Levantine dialect [it] means “delicious.”

Tabbouleh salad, cabbage salad, baba ghanouj and mutabal kusa from Tayybeh’s last Event | Photo by Rafal Gerszak, image via

After you’ve stuffed yourself with delicious food, you can enjoy dancing, music, and storytelling from the same region. Khadiejah, a Middle Eastern belly dancer, will be dancing throughout to room to beautiful Arabic music. Danny Ramadan, a gay former Syrian refugee who arrived in Vancouver three years ago and the founder and organizer of the event, will be doing some storytelling, along with Rory, a Syrian lesbian who arrived in Vancouver last year.

Check out the Facebook event for to RSVP and share the event with your friends. To buy tickets, go straight to the Eventbrite page. Remember to bring cash for the bar, which will be serving red and white wine. If you can’t make it but want to support the cause, or have the means to give more after purchasing a ticket, you can buy a community ticket for $25. This ticket will allow a person from the queer and trans refugee community to attend the event who otherwise might not be able to.

When: Friday July 28, 7:00-10:30 pm
Where: Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews
How Much: $40 a ticket; $25 to donate a community ticket

Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian

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