“Don’t Forget Us”: Installation by An American Artist Reminds People of Syrian Detainees’ Suffering
The American artist Marc Nelson offered his audience a unique art installation, through which he aimed to manifest the suffering of the Syrian war’s victims, with a specific focus on the cause of the people held in the detention centers of the Syrian regime.
The installation consisted of a number of drawings and sculptures of clay and was, portraying the traces of physical torture on the bodies of Syrians detained in Assad’s prisons, derived from the footage, depicting torture in Syrian regime’s prisons, leaked by “Caesar” and the testimonies of former detainees including Mansour al-Omari.
The installation that was showcased at “Eastern Illinois” University is a part of a larger art project, aiming at revealing the “horrific” violations inflicted on civilians by Assad in the last seven years which followed the peaceful movement in Syria, as Nelson told Enab Baladi.
“When I viewed Caesar’s wrenching photos, I was traumatized. This was happening NOW! I could not get the broken bodies of these poor victims out of my mind. I began sketching, researching, and watching documentaries [. . .]. The more I heard the more I wanted to use my art to show the world what was happening right in front of them, on our watch”, he added.
Marc Nelson is a friend to former detainees, including Mazen Alhummada and Mansour al-Omari, who leaked a piece of cloth from the “4th Division Detention” center, affiliate to the Air Force Intelligence Branch, when he was released in 2013; the smuggled white cloth carried the names of 82 detainees, who wrote their names in blood and rust.
The American artist mentioned that the West is ignorant of what is going on in the regime’s prison cells, saying that “Many people have no idea what is going on—it is rarely reported in our media”.
To bridge this gap and to give the people a sense of the atrocities committed by the regime, Nelson asked the exhibition’s visitors to touch the displayed pieces and to reach to the featured faces, pointing out that “many people were amazed and horrified.”
Nelson called on American people as not to ignore the Syrian detainees’ cause, speaking for the thousands of detainees who “continue to languish in Regime prisons.”
Nelson, an artist whose work stands in the face of human rights violations, genocide, and injustice, is planning more exhibitions and paintings in solidarity with the victims of the war in Syria.
“I want the Assad Regime, like the Nazis, to be held accountable for their crimes against humanity,” he said.
Detainees as Depicted by Art
The Syrian detainees cause is intensively present in the international artistic space, which seek to turn the world’s eyes to this painful breach of human rights, away from the political space that failed to achieve a marked progress in relation to the detainees and forcibly disappeared Syrian’s cause.
Late in 2017, Washington, DC, the U.S. capital, hosted a Syrian exhibition, titled “Please Don’t Forget Us” at the “Holocaust Memorial Museum”. The exhibition displayed important evidence of the Syrian regime’s torture crimes against detainees.
In December 2016, “I am She” organization conducted an exhibition in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, called “Women Detainees are the Beauties”, telling the stories of former or yet detained women in the prisons of the Syrian regime. The exhibition focused on the factor that all the stories shared, the detainees’ lack of an entity that is supposed to demand their rights.
The detainees cause was also a basic material for a number of films, most of which focused on the idea of documentation, including the Fifth Estate, the Impossible revolution, The Disappeared in Syria and 82 Names.
The Syrian detainees’ cause is a major dilemma within the Syrian conflict and the whole Syrian affair, for no international entity, to the day, managed to penalize those responsible for torture crimes, despite the thousands of violations documented by local and international human rights organizations.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights states that the number of the detainees, documented by names, in the prisons of the Syrian regime is 118 thousand people, 80% of whom is forcibly disappeared. However, estimates point out that the number have exceeded the 215 thousand people’s mark, who are suffering a hellish torture.