Friday April 3, 2020

Photographer Moaz Bowman Captures Faces to show human spirit persevering against all odds in War-torn Syria

The photographers took the pictures from different regions of the country, which aims to reach behind the statistics, combat pictures, and global maneuvering to show the real Syria.

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After aerial bombardment by the Syrian government of rebel-held areas of Azaz in Aleppo governorate. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
  • A team of Syrian volunteer photographers part of the “The Humans Of Syria” project, showcased their work at an exhibition at the Capitol hill in the US
  • The photographs are arranged in two circles at the rotunda of the US Senate office building. The photographers also spoke at the opening of the exhibit via video message
  • Republican Senator, Bob Corker, spoke at the opening of the exhibit, saying that it was the greatest humanitarian disasters of modern time and we stood by and let this happen

Sept 09, 2016: His dark eyes glare at the camera as if it caught him doing something forbidden. The nine-year-old boy doesn’t attend school because of the civil war in the country, is shown holding a pen. The caption says he misses school but, “I carry a pen with me wherever I go and write on anything I can.”

The photograph of Moaz from Eastern Ghouta, Syria, is part of an exhibition in the rotunda of a U.S. Senate office building. It captures the human spirit persevering against all odds, despite living in the midst of a five-year-long conflict that has killed about 400,000 people.

A photograph from the Humans of Syria project, on display at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (M. Bowman/VOA)
A photograph from the Humans of Syria project, on display at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (M. Bowman/VOA)

“The Syrian people, if you talk to them, they feel like they’ve been left alone,” says Dr. Lina Murad of the Syrian American Medical Society. Murad left Syria years ago to escape the Assad government. She says the lack of international monetary assistance has meant a complete collapse of humanitarian support.

‘Nation of heroes’

A team of Syrian volunteers took the photos in different regions of the country to show what they call “a nation of heroes who are doing everything they can to live, to love and to dream.”

ALSO WATCH:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGy5L98EwYY

The Humans of Syria project aims to reach behind the statistics, combat pictures, and global maneuvering to show the real Syria. The photographers spoke at the opening of the exhibit via video message.

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Their photographs are arranged in two circles below the high dome of the U.S. Capitol building, in a barren, yet stately space that echoes with footsteps from offices above. The faces look outward from the center of the area as if begging to speak and tell their stories. The captions do it for them.

Four toddlers stand outside ruins in Idlib province. The arched stone cave door leads to their home after their father was killed in the war and their mother left to remarry.

A photograph from the Humans of Syria project, on display at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (M. Bowman/VOA)
A photograph from the Humans of Syria project, on display at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (M. Bowman/VOA)

A 12-year-old from Aleppo attaches lug nuts onto a tire. He started working two years ago after his school was bombed.

“What we don’t understand here is that half the population of Syria is displaced, internally or externally,” said Murad, who is quick to add that government policies, not other humans, are failing her people.

‘Scar on our country’

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee spoke at the opening of the exhibit.

“This will go down as one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of modern time and we stood by and let this happen,” he said.

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Corker has long criticized the Obama administration for not putting the U.S. military on the ground in Syria early in the conflict. “This is a scar on our country,” he said.

The groups represented support House Resolution 5732 — The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act — which promises accountability for Syrian human rights abusers and an analysis of possible no-fly and safe zones. Critics call it a “pro-war bill” that will lead to further U.S. intervention in Syria. The resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives in July.

A photograph from the Humans of Syria project, on display at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (M. Bowman/VOA)
A photograph from the Humans of Syria project, on display at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (M. Bowman/VOA)

In the meantime, a photo stands out. It shows an artist who is wearing a surgical mask to avoid breathing the dust of a bombed building. He has drawn a picture of a little girl in a dress, standing on a pile of skulls.

The little girl is stretching above her head to write the word “Hope.” (VOA)

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Castro Gang Murders: How Cuba Eliminated An Opposition

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

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A Havana memorial, for those who fought to defeat the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

By Tania Bhattacharya

Revolutions Devour Their Own Children – Jacques Mallet du Pan

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They believe that the revolution was orchestrated by them, and, its salient features were devised by their – referring to Castro and Guevara’s – genius. Had the militant lawyer, and intrepid Argentine revolutionary not been at the helm of navigating the anti-Batista rebels of the Sierra Maestra, all would have been lost. Such individuals would be rather intrigued, had they heard none other than Castro himself, state in the opening decade of the twenty first century, how Cuba’s revolutionary war, was masterminded not by him and Che, but by two unlikely figures, who have remained less known to the wider public outside of Cuba. The two in question are; Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais. The Cuban dictator’s forthright admission had only come when his rule over his people was all but over, and a change of guard was in order.

It had been very different during the anti-Fulgencio Batista movement, when Fidel Castro was planning to attack the Moncada army barracks. Contrary to popular notions, the revolution was not the handiwork of two men, but many participants, with the other notable figures being: Frank Pais, Celia Sanchez, Huber Matos, Camilo Cienfuegos, and Haydee Santamaria

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When the movement was in full swing, one of the aforementioned, was brutally executed. After its success, two of the others, were quietly annihilated. The cover-ups have left generations of Cubans and those interested in the history of the country, confounded and pained. How and why, were such important figures of the Twenty Six July movement, removed? We shall examine below. 

FRANK PAIS

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A dedication to Pais’ memory, at his home.

In the words of historian Pedro Alvarez Tabio, Fidel Castro had become a non-entity among those desiring an overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in the intervening years between 1953 and 1956. Instead, Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais, had sustained the anti-Batista movement through recruiting, funding, and training. Too embarrassed to admit that their musclemen had been defeated by a very young schoolteacher – Pais – and a woman – Sanchez – historians of post-revolution Cuba (for the most part funded by Batista supporters exiled to Miami, alongside the powerful Havana mafia, and the CIA); attempted to  fabricate a record, that showed the enemy to be a pair of macho men in the form of Che and Fidel. 

Frank Pais was a quiet and serious twenty-two year old instructor, who was essential in spearheading the Twenty Sixth of July Movement. So feared were Pais and his mentor Celia Sanchez, that Batista had unleashed the sinister murder syndicate MASFERRER TIGERS, at their heels, in the hopes of having them assassinated. Frank Pais underwent many sacrifices in his single-minded goal of having the dictator removed from power. His brother, then seventeen years of age, by the name of Josue Pais, was hunted down, tortured, and publicly executed by the regime’s secret police. Josue’s body was left on a Santiago de Cuba street in full public view, with the intention of serving as a warning to Frank, and others in the rebel fraternity. The name of the movement has been derived from the date, on which the older Castro brother – Fidel – and about one hundred and thirty trained rebels, had carried out their attack on the army barracks of Moncada. As a diversionary tactic, it had been left to Frank Pais, to simultaneously arrange for an assault on the adjoining city of Bayamo. The theatre of guerrilla activity now intensified through a two-pronged approach, had intimidated Batista’s men, bringing them heavy losses. Fidel Castro may have been captured after the ill-fated Moncada incident, but had it not been for Frank Pais, the military forces that met up with the band of a few dozen revolutionaries, would have been far greater, resulting in certain death for Fidel.

Author Jose Alvarez in his biography of Pais (available in English) named FRANK PAIS: ARCHITECT OF CUBA’S BETRAYED REVOLUTION takes the reader through neglected chapters of the Cuban Revolution’s history. What is relevant to the scope of this synopsis, are the ones on the last days of Pais’ life. He may have been a co-founder of the anti-Batista movement and played a leading role in its functioning along with the heroines Haydee Santamaria and Celia Sanchez, but Pais’ outlook on the future of Cuba had been vastly different from that of Fidel. This had resulted in bitter arguments between the two. Frank was a deeply religious man who took his Christianity very seriously. Had he survived, he may have wanted the Cubans to have a definite spiritual direction. This was quite unpalatable to his fellow revolutionary Fidel, who was a true Marxist. 

The events surrounding Frank Pais’ death, are the focus of this section. As mentioned previously, his efforts had been instrumental in galvanizing anti-Batista forces throughout the country on a massive scale, both in the cities and the interiors. The dictator was well-aware of the young man’s potential, and had placed a large bounty on the former’s head. 

Raul Pujol and Eugenia San Miguel were friends of Pais, whose homes were treated as safe abodes by Pais and his confidantes. He was hiding there on the 28th of July 1957, when law enforcement came looking for him. According to the official account, Frank was betrayed by a squealer whom he had known since his days at grade school. He was then shoved into a government vehicle idling nearby, for interrogation. Like his dead brother Josue, Frank was tortured, but the attempts were futile. The young school teacher bore his adversity with defiance, and plenty of resolve. This was later attested to by his interrogators. His angered captors then executed him publicly, on a by-lane of Santiago de Cuba. 

The only account we have of the events surrounding the death of Frank Pais, fellow revolutionary and arch rival of Fidel Castro within the July Twenty Sixth Movement, originates from a woman named Vilma Espin. She was a revered figure among the rebels, being an educated woman who came from a background of prestige and wealth. Her forefathers had been landlords in Batista’s Cuba, but she had fought against their wishes, joining the anti-Batista forces in order to end the island’s American-backed dictatorship. In the years following Pais’ assassination, her account changed several times, with new characters, locations and scenarios making their appearance, and sometimes an entire scrapping of a previous one, for an unheard-of setting. 

But what interest would a fellow revolutionary who was a member of the rebel forces, and therefore in agreement with Frank Pais over the removal of Fulgencio Batista, have in providing conflicting eyewitness accounts of Pais’ death? 

It so turns out, that Espin, despite being a comrade within the movement, was vying for the top spot in the organizational hierarchy of the revolutionary brigade, along with Pais. The two had shared an acrimonious rivalry. But Vilma Espin was not going to play second fiddle to Frank. She had the backing of Fidel Castro himself! Espin was the wife of Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, and her position of influence within the Castro family, helped her case. Once the Cuban Revolution was successfully over, her brother-in-law would assign her to high posts within the country. It would have suited Vilma and Fidel well, to have joined hands and ‘taken care’ of Frank Pais, who was increasingly posing as an ideological rival to the two. 

A number of unanswered questions remain pertaining to Pais’ assassination. Who was the squealer that ratted him out? Who had paid him to betray Frank? Is it possible that Frank Pais had been released post his interrogation, and been slayed by other shadowy interests? No subsequent findings have proven satisfactory enough. 

CAMILO CIENFUEGOS

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A talented Fine Arts student, Cienfuegos (centre) became the most popular rebel before he disappeared.

Among the Cuban rebels, the one who wore his beard the longest, was Camilo. He was the son of immigrant parents from Spain to Cuba. In the words of his friends, Camilo epitomized the typical Cuban spirit of joie de vivreHe was a good-looking, outgoing fellow; a man who enjoyed his drinks, the company of women, was a jokester, and could dance the merengue like it was nobody’s business. Born to parents in the tailoring profession, who ran a small shop from their home to provide for the family, Cienfuegos – meaning a hundred fires – was enrolled in Art school of his own choice at fourteen. Soon he had to drop out from a lack of funds. Subsequently, he worked many odd jobs, and once, travelled to the United States on a month-long work visa, seeking to make a future for himself in the new country, through struggle. Long after his visa had expired, Camilo and the friend who had come along with him, continued to stay back in the US, with Cienfuegos once employed as a dishwasher at the Waldorf Astoria. This is mentioned in the book ‘A Hundred Fires In Cuba’ by John Thorndike. He made a further attempt at American citizenship, by marrying a Salvadorian nurse Isabel Blandon, who had become a legalized resident of that country. Months later, the marriage was over and so was Cienfuegos’ dream of a prolonged stay in the US, when the authorities deported him to Mexico. While there he had a chance encounter with members of the July twenty six movement. With only ten dollars in his pocket and freshly exiled from Los Angeles, directionless, when the rebels offered him the promise of food and shelter in pursuance of his efforts, Camilo readily agreed. Among the eighty people who were able to safely land when their boat, the GRANMA