For the second year in a row, EED was a partner of the annual One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Brussels. The festival hosts screenings of films on a range of human rights issues and features panel debates with experts, human rights campaigners and filmmakers on trends in the field of human rights.
This year, EED co-organised a screening of ‘Privacy of Wounds’ which was followed by a panel discussion on the subject of the detained and forcibly disappeared in Syria.
Over the course of three days, the powerful film directed by Dalia Kury, documents three former Syrian political detainees as they are locked up in a simulated prison cell, exchanging memories of their experiences in Syria's darkest detention facilities.
The panel was composed of Mazen Darwish - President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression and Salma Kahale - Director of Dawlaty and was moderated by Eric Witte - Senior Project Manager, Open Society Justice Initiative.
As a former Syrian detainee himself, Darwish commended the film for offering detailed insight into the conditions of detention in Syrian prisons adding that it is important to reveal beyond what is covered in the news, more than ‘just numbers.
Kahale highlighted the importance of seeking alternative means of documentation that shed further light on the impact of these detentions and disappearances on victims and their families. Syrians are finding more ways to tell their stories through film and visual arts in ways that will allow spectators to gain a multi-layered understanding of their plight.
“The experiences of women inside prison and once they are released are different than men. There is a stigma placed on women who have been detained. Those who are sexually assaulted are also shamed” Kahale added.
Darwish stressed that without accountability and transitional justice, achieving a sustainable peace in Syria will be impossible. Failure to hold criminals accountable will also set a bad precedent for perpetrators in other countries.
“Accountability is an important message to Syria and any other country committing crimes against humanity”.
He also emphasised the importance of empowering ‘the victims to become survivors’ and encouraging Syrian detainees and their families to engage in the fight for justice against their perpetrators by providing their testimonies to organisations like the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression working on criminal accountability.
Peace and Reconciliation
The possibility of pursuing criminal accountability and transitional justice while providing funds for reconstruction is a pressing issue in Syria. Kahale believes any funding entity must conduct their due diligence to ensure that their intervention “is done in a way that supports human rights, peace and justice”.
On a concluding note Kahale added that “Pouring money for reconstruction won’t create stability. In order for social cohesion and dialogue to occur, there needs to be a safe space where there is no fear of repercussions like being detained”.