Images, Ethics, Action: Online Video, Human Rights and Civic Activism in Syria

Reposted from PULSE:

Thomas Keenan moderates a discussion with our friends, the great Yassin al Haj Saleh and Eliot Higgins (Brown Moses), on the situation in Syria.

We live in a world where images of violence and atrocity regularly flow from battlefields and streets in conflict, and circulate with increasing velocity. Whether they are intended to terrorize, shock, expose wrongdoing, “raise awareness,” or simply show what’s happening — and whether they are made by journalists, fighters, activists, citizens, or even satellites and surveillance cameras — they appear before us and ask us to respond. They raise not only political questions, but ethical ones as well. They are ultimately addressed to public opinion, and their fate is uncertain. Do they end in action, engagement, avoidance, prejudice, empathy, revulsion, memory or oblivion?

This discussion focused on images from the war in Syria, and explored a range of things to do with them.

Razan and I | OpenDemocracy

My latest article on Razan Zaitouneh published yesterday on OpenDemocracy in collaboration with SyriaUntold:

10172824_691852620878867_7378733230773807252_nBetween me and Razan there are those tiny stories that do not belong to and cannot be classified as one of those typical close relationships between friends. We weren’t friends. To me, she was the woman whose path is always crossing mine, a hard working woman who values human life more than any other values favored by other humans. She believes everyone is equal and everyone deserves the same treatment from law. Razan is a true human rights activist who doesn’t just write statements, but actually commits to advocating human rights and equality in her daily life.

Razan cannot be racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic or carry a prejudice, she only targets abusers. An abuser is he who commits a form of injustice against another. Period. Razan’s idea of human life is this simple, and it’s quite admirable to see it remain the same during the world’s most recent crisis. That’s Razan, that’s my mentor; despite knowing her name neither the world, nor many Syrians, even know her.

Click here to read the full text.

Back to Life

I woke up around 4 AM. I thought about you a bit, well a lot, then watched another episode of House.

I sat in the balcony for the first time ever since I moved in to this studio of mine, smoked a ciggie then went back to bed.

I woke up again around 7 AM, wore gym clothes then went out for a quick run – the first time I do it in my life.

I am devoting some time lately to discovering good music. I am currently playing this album non-stop since yesterday.

My online life is getting better, I’m managing to lessen my promises. Not feeling guilty about it.

The most important thing that is going on in my life is that I am back to drawing. The last time I picked up a pencil was in 1999.

The second important thing that is going on in my life is that my heart is beating again, my stomach hurts when I think about him, but I am not sure if I want to “live the moment,” again. I thought that’s what I wanted.

I can’t write about 2013. I can’t write about the five months I spent in Beirut in 2014. I feel that putting the words out there would not do my feelings justice.

Gaziantep is a quiet city, I like it. I hate that it’s a men’s city though. But I feel it’s a place where you can flourish as an individual. There’s nothing going around, not many bars or nice cafes, but full of restaurants.

So you can be creative about spending time here. I am buying myself a bike soon. I want to devote sometime to writing and reading.

I loved running this morning, I’ll try to do it daily, might help me quite smoking.

I’ve changed. So much, the past three years. I am now getting more freaked out about cleaning, organizing, health, skin, bills…I forgot worrying about tomorrow when I was in Syria. Now I feel I am worrying about tomorrow too much.

I am in healing period, recovery, restoration, and looks like it will take a longer time than I expected.

Off to work. This is me encouraging myself to blog.

Kali’s Legacy

I lived. Past tense. I lived nine months in a place called Nomy. Nomy was a strange town, I have to say. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

I left Nomy four months ago. Past tense. It should be over by now, you know, the memories – good or bad. But those memories are called as such because of present tense. The old reality becomes new after leaving. Here is a new territory, your mind is working daily to accumulate new memories. The old memories are not so much old, they’re still alive with me in my speech, temper, I even developed new fakeness in my character. Most of all, those old memories are alive within me through my new semi-phobias.

In Nomy, there was no electricity, water nor any form of telecommunication. People use motorcycles and cars to reach that someone they want to talk to about something, or as whether someone has just passed or not. You can imagine how many times your door is being knocked because simply there are no telecommunication. No sense of privacy. That’s why people leave their door open during the day instead of answering it more than five times a day, on a usual day – as in no shelling, for example. In my case, the teacher and child entertainer, my door was being knocked more than 8 times a day and then I stopped answering it- which is considered inappropriate to the residents of Nomy. But I was from outside the city, people considered it a foreign habit from where I come from and embraced it. Like they embraced my uncovered hair and jeans. Some things are not impossible for Nomy.

There were net services in the town but they’re all too slow and no one really uses them except the women of the village who had no other option of internet access in their private spheres. They cannot move around easily in public. They don’t own the public space, men do, and men with guns are the leaders of the public space.

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What #Douma4 Means to Me

After almost six months since the kidnapping of Razan Zeitounah, Samira Khalil, Wael Hamadah and Nazem Hammadi by masked armed groups in Douma on 9th of December 2013. We, the families and friends of the kidnapped along with a group of independent activists, launch #Douma4 that’s aiming to put pressure on the kidnappers to release them and tell us about their safety and well-being.

1Razan, Samira, Wael and Nazem have been living in Ghouta for sometime before they were kidnapped: we’re at the liberated areas at last. Now it’s time for the revolution, us, to build it. They did. Razan was documenting in person the violations committed by the regime and armed groups alike. The regime violations are countless with the war being launched on rebels and citizens with the help of experts and fighters from three or more countries. To some, this makes the violations committed by the revolution small, but Razan refused to adopt such mentality. Violation Documentation Center documents human rights violations. Period. The center takes a political stance towards who’s committing the crimes, that’s why it’s a revolutionary center. What exactly do you mean if you’re a human rights activist and “neutral”? What the hell does that mean?

Razan wrote several articles documenting crimes committed by armed groups in Ghouta. Many international human rights activists don’t dare to enter Syria to document the violations. When they do they escape the shelling, except very small number, I was happy to meet one in my life. Razan lived in the same city of those criminals and published in her real name those violations. That’s one of the reasons why Razan is abducted today. She’s a real believer in human rights. Attacking armed groups claiming to be revolutionary is exactly what a revolutionary does. Who do you think you are, new-comer, to do the thing you do, in the name of my revolution?

But the world doesn’t get it. These crimes are “opposition” crimes since the criteria is not being a revolutionary, but being anti-regime. Syria had many anti-regime personnel and many of them went to prison for years. One of them said-on the day Razan was abducted- that she is not a revolutionary, hence doesn’t deserve support. He was anti-regime for years, but he’s not a revolutionary. He’s a bastard.

Wael is a revolutionary. He supports Razan. Wael is a feminist, maybe more than Razan. Razan is feminist without having anything to do with the feminist discourse. She is a woman of power. People take her seriously even the most dangerous armed groups. Wael was detained three times because of Razan’s role in the revolution. Razan cofounded two centers. Two centers inside Syria while she was on the run inside Damascus, while she was besieged by the regime in Douma. While she survived the chemical attack. Razan co-founded two centers.

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