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Join us for a film screening of "82 Names: Syria, Please Don't Forget Us" following discussion and Q&A with Zaina Erhaim, Naomi Kikoler, and Mansour Omari.
Reception to follow
82 Names: Syria, Please Don't Forget Us, a 48 minute documentary film that traces the journey of Mansour Omari, a survivor of torture and imprisonment in Syria. As Omari seeks to rebuild his life in exile and visits sites in Germany that memorialize the victims of the Holocaust, he reflects on how to bring attention to the brutal regime he escaped—and counter extremist ideology in the future. To connect people with the crisis in Syria, Omari worked with the Museum to create an exhibition about the individuals he knew in prison. 82 Names is a powerful story of how one man risked his life to document atrocity crimes and bring that evidence to the world. 82 Names: Syria, Please Don't Forget Us is a co-production of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Maziar Bahari.
Zaina Erhaim is a Syrian journalist and activist. Currently based in London, she has reported extensively on the Syrian revolution. She was among the few female journalists and activists who reported from within the country. Erhaim is a Senior Media Specialist for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and, as such, has trained hundreds of people in Syria, primarily women, to be citizen reporters. After 2013, Zaina’s journalistic writing in Arabic became rare. She started to write in English, and published in The Economist, The Guardian, and, more recently, the German newspaper Die Zeit.
In September 2016, the British authorities confiscated Erhaim’s passport at the request of the government in Damascus, effectively preventing her from traveling and blocking her work as an activist. Authorities told her that the document had been reported stolen, and she had to use an old passport to return to Turkey. Erhaim has been named the Writer-at-Risk for Penn’s Perry World House and Kelly Writers House for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Erhaim was named among the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women in 2016 by Arabian Business and as an Unsung Hero of 2016 by Thomson Reuters. She received the 2016 Index on Censorship, Freedom of Expression award, and the 2015 Press Freedom Prize by Reporters Without Borders in addition to the Peter Mackler Award for Ethical and Courageous Journalism, also in 2015, beside the Mustafa Al Husaine award for the best article written by a young journalist. The last prize she received was by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which she was awarded in 2017 in Germany.
Naomi Kikoler is the deputy director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. For six years she developed and implemented the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect’s work on populations at risk and efforts to advance R2P globally and led the Centre’s advocacy, including targeting the UN Security Council. An adjunct professor at the New School University, she is the author of numerous publications, including the 2013 Nexus Fund series on the emerging powers and mass atrocity prevention and the 2011 report Risk Factors and Legal Norms Associated with Genocide Preventionfor the United Nations Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Jacob Blaustein Institute. Prior to joining the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in 2008, she worked on national security and refugee law and policy for Amnesty International Canada. She has also worked in the Office of the Prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement at the Brookings Institution, and she worked as an election monitor in Kenya with the Carter Center. She holds common law and civil law degrees from McGill University, an MSc in forced migration from Oxford University, where her thesis was on the Rwandan genocide, and a BA from the University of Toronto in international relations and peace and conflict studies. She is a board member of the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, a senior fellow at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, and was called to the Bar of Upper Canada.
Mansour Omari, a human rights activist, was detained for almost a year. He and his fellow prisoners mixed rust from prison bars with their own blood to create ink and then used a chicken bone as a writing implement to record the names of 82 fellow prisoners on five scraps of cloth. They hoped this information could be smuggled out and their families would learn of their whereabouts. Mansour was able to smuggle these scraps out of prison.
After his release, Mansour contacted the families of those detained, and is now using the cloths to educate the public about the conflict in Syria and the government’s strategy of “disappearing” people. He also hopes, one day, to use the cloths as evidence of the crimes committed by the Assad regime to hold perpetrators in Syria accountable for mass atrocities against civilians.
Mansour brought these artifacts to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, where our conservators aided in their preservation to help tell this story. The five pieces of cloth were on display in the Museum's exhibition space, as well as the notebook Mansour used to transport the cloths.
Major support for this program has been provided by US Holocaust Memorial Museum donors, Suzy and Robert Schwartz