Online exhibition highlights advocacy material to help Syrian families of missing persons

The materials aim to make families of the many who have disappeared in the Syrian conflict aware of their rights, and what they can do to support a search for their missing relatives

By Yasmine Khalaf

28 July 2020: A collection of films and other advocacy material created by Syrian civil society organizations are featured in a new online exhibit organized by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

The materials aim to make families of the many who have disappeared in the Syrian conflict aware of their rights, and what they can do to support a search for their missing relatives. The 11 organizations created the products with support from the ICMP, which awarded them small grants to finance the projects and offered workshops and other support to help the organizations strengthen their skills.

“We have the right to know where they are,” a woman gazing straight into the camera says in one of the films, produced by the Syria Legal Network.

The title of online exhibit, “In Their Absence”, was inspired by a book collecting interviews by families of the missing on the challenges they face, created by the Syrian non-profit organization Freedom Jasmine as part of the project. The exhibit will be officially inaugurated during an online event on July 29.

The project is part of work by ICMP’s Syria/MENA program to encourage and enable families of the missing to report their missing relatives. The program supports partner CSOs to help them strengthen their skills so that they participate effectively in efforts to account for the missing, including by collecting data and advocating for families’ rights to justice, truth and reparations.

The CSOs used the ICMP small grants, financed by the European Union, for activities that led to an increase in the active participation of families in the process of accounting for the missing.

“The poignancy materials in the exhibit show the remarkable capacity of Syrian civil society,” said Lena Alhusseini, head of the ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program. “Despite difficult circumstances, the organizations involved managed to create material that not only raise awareness among Syrian families of their rights, but also demonstrates to the world that Syria’s civil society must be part of in any negotiations that affect the country’s missing person issue.”

ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger added:

“Accounting for the missing is an investment in peace and stability. For a missing persons process to be successful, families must participate both in its design and its implementation. For this reason, I welcome the efforts by all organizations involved in this project: the engagement with families it led to contributes to laying the platform for a future in which Syria fulfils its responsibility to account for the missing.”

The exhibition opening event will be held from 1:00 PM CET on Wednesday 29 July. To participate, click here.

ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program is working to establish the foundations for an effective process to address the issue of missing persons. The program places the rights of families of the missing at the center of the effort to account for their relatives, regardless of the circumstances of the missing person, their ethnic, or religious background, or their role in the conflict. The Program, which is financially supported by the European Union, is being implemented among refugees and along migratory routes.

ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, migratory routes and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.

The following organizations took part in the project:

Damma

Damma is a women-led organization that was originally founded in Zabadani in Syria before moving to Beqaa, Lebanon. Damma supports vulnerable communities, especially women and children, through legal and economic empowerment.

Nophotozone

Nophotozone, operating from Beirut, Lebanon, focuses on the issue of detention and enforced disappearance in Syria and provides legal aid and support to families of the missing.

Amal Healing and Advocacy Center

Amal Healing and Advocacy Center was established in 2014 in Hatay, Turkey, to the protect women and children. AHAC provides psychosocial support, legal counselling and advocacy for the cause of missing persons.

Syria Bright Future

Syria Bright Future was established in 2013 Gaziantep, Turkey to provide psychosocial support and empower women who have been recently released from detention.

Freedom Jasmine

Freedom Jasmine is a Syrian non-profit organization based in Gaziantep, Turkey, that focuses on the issue of missing persons. Freedom Jasmine advocates through campaigns for the cause in regional and international platforms.

Horizon

Horizon, based in Sanliurfa, Turkey, supports development and employment projects to benefit Syrians who live in Sanliurfa.

Judy Organization for Relief and Development

The Judy Organization for Relief and Development (JORD), an independent local non-profit organization, was founded in 2012 to work in the field of humanitarian relief and refugee support in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

Hitma Organization for Cultural and Social Development

The Hitma Organization for Cultural and Social Development, based in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, was established by a group of Syrian volunteers in 2012 to focus on youth and volunteer development.

Syria Legal Network

The Syria Legal Network (SLN), based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is a network of lawyers founded in 2016 to provide legal support to Syrian communities in the Netherlands and Europe.

Violations Documentation Center

The Paris, France-based Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), part of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, in 2011 begun documenting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria.

Ashar3 Media Foundation

Al Share’ Media Foundation, based in Berlin, Germany, is a collective of journalists, artists, filmmakers and human rights defenders who work to promote freedom of expression.