Pro-Assad photo exhibition at UN headquarters draws criticism
by Daily Sabah with Agencies
ISTANBULJan 09, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Agencies
Jan 09, 2015 12:00 am
Hagop Vanesian, an Armenian-Syrian, opened photograph exhibition in the U.N.'s Headquarter in New York. The photos, according to the claims of the opposition groups, were pro-Assad as the photographer allegedly has been embedded with the regime forces in Aleppo at the time of taking the photos. The U.N. representative of the opposition Syrian National Coalition Najib Ghadbian called the photographer a propagandist. "I just photograph the suffering of the people," Vanesian told the Associated Press in response to Ghadbian's remarks. However, the exhibition is sponsored by the Syrian regime. The exhibition was displayed yesterday including the photos of the ruined Aleppo, including captions that mention "terror groups." The Syrian regime calls the opposition 'terrorist.' The photographer, Vanesian, also said some of the groups, fighting in Aleppo against the regime, were labeled as terrorist also by the Western countries. However, the opposition group's representative was frustrated and called the U.N. to "correct this grave mistake." A spokeswoman for Ghadbian, Katie Guzzi, said they had not had an official response from the U.N. Ghadbian said the photos paint Syria's government as a victim, not an aggressor. In the letter sent by the opposition representative to the U.N. it was said that "The Syrian Mission uses Mr. Vanesian's photography to whitewash the regime's war crimes and perpetuate its narrative: that it is a victim rather than the primary perpetrator of death and destruction in Syria. Indeed Mr. Vanesian has praised Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma al-Assad and uses his photographs to tell a false story of the Assad's self-proclaimed humanitarianism. In thanks for his pro-regime activities, Mr. Vanesian is awarded access to and is at times embedded with Syrian regime forces in Aleppo. Mr. Vanesian's photographs include images of the destruction and suffering in Syria, the undeniable consequence of the Assad regime's brutal war on the Syrian people. The "My Homeland" exhibit perpetuates a pro-Assad narrative; it is shameful that the U.N. Headquarters will be host to this. By agreeing to host this Syrian-regime sponsored exhibition, the U.N. violates the policy governing the United Nations Exhibit Committee, which demands that "all exhibits must be compatible with the aims, purposes and principles of the U.N." There is no question that the proposed "My Homeland" event is incompatible with the principles of an institution dedicated to international peace and security. On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and all of those Syrians working for a democratic, peaceful future for their country, I ask that you cancel the "My Homeland" exhibit."
The fighting in Syria that began with protests against Assad in 2011 has killed more than 200,000 people and forced millions to flee. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused both the Syrian government forces and opposition forces of targeting civilians, though former U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay last year said atrocities by the Syrian government "far outweigh" crimes by opposition fighters.
Vanesian, who was born in Aleppo and has been a volunteer photographer with the aid group Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said he left the divided northern city eight months ago. Last summer, he posted photos of Facebook of him shaking hands with Syria's ambassador to the U.N., as well as black-and-white portraits of the ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari. "The war in Syria changed my life but not my principals," Vanesian's Twitter profile says. The U.N. officials have not made any immediate comment on the issue.