Video by Ford Fischer, Voiced by Jacquie Lee
Article by Jacquie Lee and Quincey Tickner
Photos by Jacquie Lee
Supporters of the Syrian photographer known as “Caesar” silently protested in front of the White House today. The activists hope to send a message to President Obama that he must act after hearing of mass killings of Syrian civilians by the Assad regime.
“The media doesn’t talk much about it,” Mustaphi Saffou, a Syrian rights activist, said. “If it doesn’t affect U.S citizens no one knows about it.”
The protest,“Stand with Caesar,” occurred the same day Caesar’s photographs – documenting mass killings of more than 11,000 people by security forces in Syria during the civil uprising from 2011-2013 – were displayed in the Halls of Congress.
Dressed in blue jackets, demonstrators stood in support of the victims in the photographs and their families. Caesar himself donned a blue hooded jacket as well as a pseudonym in order to protect his identity when he first spoke in front of the U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2014.
Caesar smuggled out more than 55,000 high-resolution images of the conditions inside Syrian prisons before he fled Syria in 2013. The graphic images show beaten and tortured bodies of Syrian prisoners. Assad opposition groups posted more than 6,000 images online, prompting families to search for their family members throughout the photos.
For demonstrator Hashem Mubarak, the photos were a reminder of the innocent victims of Assad’s brutal regime, and when he first saw them he was overcome with sadness, he said.
“I was crying, because this could be my uncle, my cousin,” he said. “This is a human being who did nothing but stand up for freedom. He was a husband to somebody, a father to somebody.”
Many demonstrators compared the killings by Assad’s regime to the Holocaust.
“We are going to wake up one day and think this is the second Holocaust, and we didn’t do anything about it,” Samar Hamwi said.
Activists hope Obama will create a safe zone in Syria in order to protect civilians, activist Erica Hanichak said. Although the United States is primarily concerned with ISIS, the two issues are not far apart, Hanichak said. Removing Assad would not only protect Syrian civilians, it would help push ISIS out of the region as well, she added.
“By addressing Assad you can address ISIS,” Hanichak said.