The newly restored and renovated Samah Idriss Hall in the Palestinian Chess Forum in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, opened with an inaugural ceremony on Friday, 1 April 2022. The renovation of the hall was funded by the Samidoun campaign to support the Palestinian Chess Forum, which raised $5,000 to support this grassroots organization that serves as a youth club and community center for Palestinian refugee youth in the camp.
The Chess Forum teaches youth and children chess, hosts reading circles, art workshops, poetry evenings, language courses, supplementary school lessons and seminars. It views this work not only as a social responsibility but as a political necessity. As such, Palestinian Chess Forum is a hub for national and political work. This can be seen from its chess tournament, entitled “The launch of the Palestinian revolution,” to its cultural competition “Who is Ghassan Kanafani?”. The forum regularly hosts programs in support of Palestinian prisoners and Georges Abdallah, the Lebanese Arab struggler for Palestine imprisoned in France for nearly 38 years.
The Palestinian Chess Forum helps to raise a new Palestinian generation with firm values and commitments, understanding the reasons why they are growing up outside their homeland, Palestine and learning about the history and struggle of the Palestinian people, adhering firmly to the right to return to Palestine and imagining the future possibilities for a liberated Palestine.
Now, the new Samah Idriss Hall, paying tribute to the Arab revolutionary intellectual Samah Idriss, who spent many hours maintaining a continuous, ongoing relationship of support with the center and the children and youth that attend its programs. He always visited the center, reading short stories and poetry and interviewing them about various issues affecting their lives and development. Samah’s quote from his final speech, to the Masar Badil (Alternative Palestinian Revolutionary Path) conference in Beirut: “If we abandon Palestine, we abandon ourselves,” reflects his approach to Palestine and the Palestinian cause.
The new hall doubles the space in the center, with new flooring, lighting, painted walls and murals of the map of Palestine and of Samah himself at the Chess Forum. With the funds raised, the Forum was able to buy a new space of 60 square meters, install a new ceiling and lighting, install ventilation, add a sound system and speakers, as well as a battery to provide lighting when electricity is not functioning in the camp.
The opening of the hall included presentations by Mahmoud Hashem, the director of the Palestinian Chess Forum; Rana Idriss, the sister of Samah Idriss; journalist Imad Mukhtar; chess student Said Hassanein; and Abdel-Malik Sukkariyeh of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, representing Samah’s comrades and friends. Many representatives of Lebanese and Palestinian political parties and organizations and social activists joined the event. Abdel-Malik Sukkariyeh emphasized the importance of promoting the literary and political values of Samah Idriss, for resistance, return and liberation and building support for the boycott of Zionism as an important part of the work of youth initiatives.
Said, one of the young people who participates in the center’s activities said, “My teacher, tleader and role model Samah, when you were with us, we were living Palestine with you. We will not forget your words, that you said while you are fighting death. ‘If we abandon Palestine, we abandon ourselves.'”
Warmest thanks to all of those who participated in the successful fundraising campaign for the Palestinian Chess Forum and the Samah Idriss hall, continuing to build the struggle for return and liberation through empowering grassroots Palestinian initiatives with support without political conditions. Congratulations to the Palestinian Chess Forum on opening this bright, new, safe space for generations of Palestinian children and youth to learn chess and pursue liberation together.