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Cablegate: International Visitor Experience Leads to First Damascus

VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0304 1221316
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011316Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4920
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AFNEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000304

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR ECA, ECA/PE, NEA/PPD, NEA/ELA, NEA/PI, R

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC OIIP SCUL SOCI SY XF
SUBJECT: INTERNATIONAL VISITOR EXPERIENCE LEADS TO FIRST DAMASCUS
BREAST CANCER WALK


------
Summary
-------

1. [SBU] Pink balloons, ribbons, and posters festooned a
high-traffic area of Damascus on Saturday, April 12 for the
first-ever "March for Survival." The walk, organized by the Syrian
Breast Cancer Society, inspired by the October 2007 International
Visitor Program on "Breast Cancer Awareness." Two members of the
society participated in the IVP and took part in the Susan B. Komen
Race for the Cure in San Diego. One of the IVP alumni told CAO she
wanted the Damascus walk "to be as close to the U.S. experience as
possible." The event drew 200-250 women and men, media attention,
and private/public sector sponsorship. The walk proved the
existence of a small but significant space for civil society to
operate in Syria. End summary.

---------------------------------
International Visitor Inspiration
---------------------------------

2. [U] Participation in the October 2007 International Visitor
Program on "Breast Cancer Awareness" inspired Lamya Hussari and Dr.
May Mahayni, two members of the Syrian Breast Cancer Society, to
duplicate the American model for successful awareness raising: a
walk or march. Using the example of the Susan B. Komen Race for the
Cure, the Syrian Breast Cancer Society staged the first "March for
Survival" on Saturday, April 12. Between 200-250 people
participated in this first of its kind event in Damascus.
Participants included a large number of doctors and medical
students, both men and women, as well as delegations from the Syrian
Red Crescent Society and the UN High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR). Local media were out in force covering the event.

3. [U] The walk received sponsorship from a number of local and
international private and public sector institutions, including:
Total E&P, MPI (pharmaceutical company), SyriaTel, Syrian Arab Red
Crescent, Shami Hospital, Novartis Oncology, Bank Audi, Health World
(magazine), Arabesque FM (106.9), Kodak, and Carestream Health.
While donations were solicited at the walk, the main goal was
awareness rather than fundraising. The government also lent its
support. The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Mohammad Jamil
Al-Owayed, spoke at the finish line about the importance of breast
cancer awareness, early detection, and praised the Breast Cancer
Society for its work.

--------------------------------
Comment: Civil Society in Action
--------------------------------

4. [SBU] Syrian civil society is constrained in its areas of
operation and limits itself largely to government-sanctioned,
apolitical spheres such as healthcare. The Syrian Breast Cancer
Society and other nascent non-governmental organizations, notably
environmental associations, focus on awareness and
consciousness-raising among Syria's youth. While small, the "March
for Survival" was notable for the broad participation it attracted
and for the organizers' ability to obtain all the necessary
permissions as well as high-level government support.


CORBIN

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