A thousand Bassel Shehadeh's blossom
On June 18 at Amnesty International UK, the Bassel Shehadeh Foundation was officially announced at a special screening of the documentary Syria through a Lens - The life and works of the film maker Bassel Shehadeh.
Syria is probably the most severe human rights, humanitarian and political crisis in the world right now. It’s easy to think the issue is too complex, too messy and that there is little we as individuals can do to affect change. The narrative of despair is quite seductive. And Syria is a battle of narratives as much as it is a battle on the ground. Well despair is not going to help any of the people currently suffering in Syria. Despair is not going to bring anybody back.
In January 2011 when we at Amnesty stepped up work in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region we said our focus would be on having solidarity with people peacefully demanding change and defiance against those trying to stop them – in pursuit, of a human rights revolution – that remains our guiding principle.
The event at Amnesty was very much in solidarity with an activist who peacefully demanded change and his colleagues and contemporaries who continue to do so.
People like the members of the Syrian Non Violence Movement who I recently hosted at AIUK for an intensive weekend of training in campaigns strategy & organisation. That training is part of our long term "transitions" work focused on helping to build an effective, strong and independent civil society for the future Syria. I wrote about this recently.
But this particular event was dedicated to one of those activists who is no longer with us.
Bassel Shehadeh was a Syrian film producer and well-respected activist. He played an integral role in organising and documenting the peaceful protests that have swept Syria since March 2011.
He was killed on 28 May 2012 during a government assault on a neighbourhood in Homs, Syria.
His message and his activism will not be lost though. Thanks to his friends and family, the Bassel Shehadeh Foundation will focus on supporting young Syrians to enrich their skills in the field of media and the arts with an aim to make a 1000 new Bassel Shehadeh’s. It’s an idea and a vision which breeds hope in a time of great despair. I look forward to seeing the Foundation blossom and help spread a culture of free expression and artistic defiance all across Syria.
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