“10s of 1000s”: An exhibition on Syria’s Missing & Disappeared

Noura Kalo
Staff Writer

“10s of 1000s”, an exhibition hosted by Amnesty International dedicated to the missing and the disappeared victims of the Syrian civil war, took place from August 30 until September 6 at Station Beirut.

According to Leen Hachem, Syria Campaigner for Amnesty International, this is an issue that the human rights NGO has been prioritizing since its prominence in 2011. The exhibition is a culmination of their work for this cause including the creation of the Syria team, documentation of human rights’ violations, and the subsequent production of various reports.

The opening ceremony began by allowing time for the audience to walk around and engage with the installations.

This was followed by an opening speech by Amnesty International that highlighted the efforts of the event in contributing to the release of the captives or the possible retrieval of information regarding their whereabouts.

Following the introductory speech, Syrian artist Dima Nachawi shared her story “The Secret of the Raindrops” which is a compelling children’s style short story about the people of a town who end up trapped within raindrops and unable to escape. Nachawi hesitated before beginning her story, understanding the weight of her simple narrative that stood in to address the harsh conditions of captivity.

Fadwa Mahmoud, human rights activist and co-founder of Families for Freedom, took to the stage next. Mahmoud told the story of her son and her husband who are 2 out of the 75,000 who had been abducted due to their work in political activism.

She spoke of  their work and told the audience about the day she received news of their disappearance. Her personal account of such loss offered a relatable entry point into a complex political situation. As she concluded her speech, the now-emotionally charged attendees made their way onto the main part of the event.

The first room featured text which detailed the events that lead to the disappearance of the human rights volunteers, peaceful activists, lawyers, and many more.

Alongside the paragraphs came mostly replicas of things that belonged to these people: a hat, a rosary, a pair of glasses, as well as an auditory element. Some pieces were accompanied by interviews with the victim’s spouse or family member. Other pieces were their own work, from poetry to prose, chillingly recited.

In the middle of this first room, there were a series of portraits of those missing faces of the men and women trapped within pieces of paper and within the jail cell-like structure placed in the middle of the room.

“10s of 1000s” offered an interactive experience of audios, visuals, and installations in an attempt to offer an immersive look into the lives of the disappeared. It presented  a curated experience of individual stories that lie within a complex and overarching political struggle.

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