When the Syrian uprising started in 2011, many Syrians hoped that this would end the dictatorship of the Assad-regime. Protestors took to the streets to demand the end of the state of lawlessness and injustice and call for basic rights. However, the regime crushed the peaceful uprising through extreme violence, entailing a civil war with regional and international dimensions. The international community has not only proved unable to provide a meaningful response, but external actors have also fueled the conflict. However, as the conflict intensified and Syrian citizens witnessed the annihilation of their country, the international interest in the experience of Syrian victims has dwindled. And so did the international commitment to advance justice and accountability. Syrian and international civil society activists and NGOs refuse to accept the reigning impunity. Through innovative and creative endeavours they try advance new justice avenues, ensuring that victims are not forgotten.
This panel discussion zooms in on the rule of violence in Syria, the international share in the injustice game and the ongoing justice efforts. Mohammed Abdullah (Artino) is a prominent Syrian photographer and human rights activist who has witnessed the start and the demise of the Syrian uprising. In his pictures he foregrounds the resilience of Syrian citizens. He argues that justice remains a core demand for Syrians whose lives have been transformed by the ongoing violence. Author and Middle-East expert Dr. Koert Debeuf (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), who has written extensively about the Syrian conflict, analyzes the broader power dynamics that entrench the conflict. Researcher Brigitte Herremans (Ghent University) highlights how Syrian and international activists challenge the international passivity and continuously reshape the struggle for justice. Seasoned author and Middle-East specialist Chams Eddine Zaougui will moderate this panel discussion.
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This panel discussion is the opening event of the exhibition ‘Syrians in the Frame’ in which Mohammed Abdullah foregrounds Syrian civilians. All too rarely are civilians featured in the reporting or debates about the Syrian conflict in the West. Overshadowed by the strong focus on the terror of the Islamic State, military escalations and the refugee issue, they are often relegated to the background. Mohammed Abdullah intends to shed a light on the human side of the conflict, focusing on the resilience of Syrians he encountered in the besieged city of Eastern Ghouta and a refugee camp in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. He shows individuals trying to preserve their humanity during inhumane situations of sieges, starvation, bombardments and injustice.
The exhibition runs from 6 to 23 December during office hours.
This event takes place in the framework of the human rights week ‘Imagining Human Rights’