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New Museum Exhibition “Syria: Please Don’t Forget Us” Documents Syrian Government Atrocities

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Laura Green
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U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM EXHIBITION SYRIA: PLEASE DON’T FORGET US DOCUMENTS SYRIAN GOVERNMENT ATROCITIES

Exhibition features cloths smuggled out of the country and conserved by Museum experts that record the names of Syrian prisoners

“I survived but others are still underground. It’s my responsibility, and my duty, to have the world know these names.”  — Mansour Omari, former Syrian prisoner

WASHINGTON, DC – The Syrian conflict has raged for almost seven years and claimed the lives of more than 500,000 of the country’s citizens. Eleven million people, one-half of Syria’s pre-war population, have fled their homes. The Assad regime is detaining more than 100,000 of its people in secret detention centers where they are starved, tortured, and killed. For most, their fates are unknown. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s new special exhibition Syria: Please Don’t Forget Us, opening on December 5, presents the dire situation facing Syrian civilians and the search for justice by one of the regime’s victims.

Syria: Please Don’t Forget Us is a powerful testament to not only what the Syrian people have endured but their quest to document the crimes, tell their stories, and hold accountable those who have committed these atrocities,” said Cameron Hudson, director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “This exhibition is an important part of the Museum’s ongoing work that started in 2011 when the uprising began to educate policymakers and the public about the crimes against humanity being committed by the Syrian government.”

Central to the exhibition is the story of Mansour Omari. Omari was arrested in February of 2012 and spent nearly a year in secret government prisons. In one of those facilities, several prisoners courageously mixed rust from prison bars with their own blood to create an ink and then used a chicken bone as an implement to record the names of 82 fellow prisoners on five scraps of cloth. The first detainee released would smuggle out the cloths and inform families about where loved ones were being held. These five pieces of cloth have been preserved by the Museum’s conservators and are on display in the exhibition.

“Exhibiting these cloths is a small action we can take to remember those who have been ‘disappeared’ by the Syrian regime and remind our audiences that these crimes are continuing unabated,” continues Hudson. “Maybe, in the future, they will serve as evidence in court of the crimes committed against the Syrian people.”

Omari lent the cloths to the Museum in August 2017. Since then, Museum conservation specialists have worked to prevent the fabric from further deterioration and to record the names they contain.

In addition to the cloths, a cellphone and USB drive used by a former Syrian military officer, codenamed “Caesar,” to smuggle more than 55,000 photographs of victims and documents of the Assad regime out of the country are also on display. Caesar brought the images to the Museum and testified to Congress in 2014.

Syria: Please Don’t Forget Us opens to the public on December 5 and is in the Museum’s Wexner Learning Center. It will close in late spring 2018 (exact date to be determined). Entrance to the Museum is free and no passes are required to visit the exhibition. Visitors are encouraged to share their reflections using hashtags #USHMM, #Syria, and #WithSyria.

The Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is committed to sounding the alarm when people around the world are targeted for mass violence. The center aims to save lives by bringing warning signs and potential threats to the international community’s attention and working to equip policy makers to respond to them.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires leaders and citizens to confront hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.   

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