by Arman Kassam, Handa Center student assistant
On Wednesday night, 65 members of the Stanford community gathered for a screening of 82 Names: Syria, Please Don't Forget Us. This documentary, produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, that explores the imprisonment and torture of Syrian activist Mansour Omari. On February 16, 2012, Mansour was arrested with fifteen other journalists and detained in a prison cell for 360 days. The activist and his colleagues risked their lives by writing down the names of prison victims on scraps of clothing, which Mansour sneaked out of the cell and made public after his release from prison.
Maziar Bahari, the Iranian filmmaker behind 82 Names, navigates Mansour's life after his imprisonment. As the Syrian activist attempts to preserve the memory of victims of the Assad regime, he has also found particular resonance with the stories of those affected by other tyrannical states, including Nazi Germany. The leadership of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum worked with Mansour to develop an exhibition on the human rights abuses under Assad. Mansour has also had the opportunity to travel to Germany and explore a type of personal justice—preserving the memory of victims in the face of systems that deconstruct and dispose of individuals.
The incisive film was followed by a panel featuring Rafif Jouejati from the Free Syria Foundation and Nidal Bitari from People Demand Change, and the event was moderated by Handa Center Faculty Fellow Beth Van Schaack, who is also the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School.
The discussion touched on everything from honoring victims of the regime to considering other manifestations of state oppression that have taken ahold of the Middle East. Though the future of Syria is opaque, the panelists made one point very clear: that Bashar al-Assad has been enabled to commit even greater atrocities because of actions—and inaction—from the international community.
"Syrians have of course felt abandoned, and they have a right to feel that way," Jouejati explained. "International maneuvering has contributed so much to the level of atrocities."
For more information:
Free Syria Foundation: http://www.free-syria-foundation.org/
People Demand Change: https://peopledemandchange.com/
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: https://www.ushmm.org