Reel Festivals 2011 hit by unrest in Syria

image captionFilms from Syria, such as Omar Amiralay's 1997 documentary A Plate of Sardines will still be screened in Scotland as part of the festival

The Scottish organisers of an international cultural festival have been forced to abandon plans to stage events in Syria next month.

Reel Festivals 2011 had planned part of its programme in Damascus as part of a trilateral cultural exchange between Scotland, Lebanon and Syria.

But organisers have now postponed all events in Syria due to growing social unrest in the country.

The festival will still be going ahead as planned in Lebanon and Scotland.

Firefly International, a Scottish charity which is organising the festival, said planned screenings in Syria of classic Scottish films such as Gregory's Girl and The Wicker Man would no longer go ahead.

They have also cancelled performances in Damascus by progressive Celtic band Shooglenifty and Scottish musician Bill Drummond.

However, organisers said most Syrian performers had confirmed they would still be able to travel to Scotland.

Reel Festivals 2011 spokeswoman Bethany Randell said the decision had been taken in the wake of recent announcements by the Foreign Office, advising British nationals to leave the country by commercial means if possible in the wake of widespread social unrest.

She continued: "Sadly, given the worsening situation in Syria ... we have had to make the difficult decision to postpone all Reel Festival events in Syria.

"The festival will still be going ahead as planned in Lebanon and Scotland and we feel that now more than ever it is essential to continue this cultural exchange and try to involve a strong Syrian element."

Ms Randell said they were still awaiting confirmation that Syrian musicians would be able to travel to Scotland.

She added: "They are travelling from Deraa where the situation is extremely tense.

"Deraa was the site of the first demonstrations and shootings in Syria, which have sparked a chain of protests, resulting in the simultaneous lifting of nearly 50 years of emergency law and a bloody government crackdown on protesters.

"Our thoughts and solidarity are with the people of Syria and we sincerely hope for a progressive and peaceful resolution to current events. We will continue to highlight Syrian films, music and poetry in our festival."

Edinburgh and Glasgow will still host an eclectic range of film screenings, concerts and poetry events from the Middle East, including Syrian documentary Shout and Zeina Daccache's 2009 film, 12 Angry Lebanese.

The Scottish capital will also play host to a photography exhibition portraying the lives of young people living in cities throughout Syria.

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