I won’t pretend to understand the full history of what’s happening in Syria. Even attempting to understand the historical, political, sociological and geographical conditions that led Syrians to their current situation, I would still fail to grasp the brutality of what’s been happening there since the uprising back in 2011. A genocide is happening under everyone’s eyes and somehow the world is unable to react.
The anger and sadness that arise from hearing and reading about the events in Syria cannot prepare us for the photographs gathered and shared by the man we came to know as Caeser, an alleged member of the military police forensic photography unit in Damascus. His history is now well know, but not the photographs he managed to bring with him from hell. Although some have been made public before, somehow they failed to impact.
These photographs need to be seen and shared. Caeser and others made efforts so that we, in the civilized world, could see what’s happening there; so that nations empowered could prevent the genocide from continuing. Yet the killing machine goes on. Caeser’s faith in the power of photography is as strong and powerful as can be. So is the disappointment that comes with the poor reactions to those photographic records.
Back in 2014, the set of more than 50000 images was shared with the Guardian and CNN. They document the war in Syria. There’s been a lot of debate about the authenticity of the images, but most agree they document Assad’s killing machine. A handful of conspiracy theories are also up for debate.
Those my eyes could see, my mind could’t really bring to life. I first couldn’t bare to stair at them. But what should I do? Am I not a witness to this event? Should we not stare and identify? Should we not name? Is it ethic to deny that such evil is my contemporary? That in some part of the world thousands of civilians are being brutally detained, tortured and killed?
After spending some time staring at the photographs rescued by Caeser I find myself not being able to avoid the word evil. I then wondered if my avoidance of the idea of evil had anything to do with the embellishment we’ve became accustomed to when it comes to photojournalist records of gruesome events. It’s been a recurrent theme here at Nihil, but in no other occasion did this paradigm became so clear: this is what a genocide looks like.
Tomorrow I have a class teaching photography students about digital image and somehow, once again, I find myself thinking if this isn’t what we should be talking about. We all know that younger generations have a difficult relationship with history. These strange times we’re living in pave the way for that detachment. We promote visits to the Holocaust museum and say never again, but then fail to nurture empathy, solidarity and compassion. We fail to look at history and read about the human condition. We fail…