Long-Term Installation of Photo Series by Bassam Khabieh

Long-Term Installation of Photo Series by Bassam Khabieh

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Danielle Jean-Baptiste started this petition to Emerson College

I have never had my home destroyed.

I have never had to witness the deaths of neighbors or relatives or friends.

I hope I never have to, and yet, I recognize the privilege I have to believe that I won’t.

This is a privilege that comes with attending a private institution in the United States. A privilege that comes with living thousands of miles away from the majority of the violent conflict that exists in our world. A privilege that allows me and thousands of other students like me to ignore the very real, very immediate atrocities that are being committed in places like Yemen, Myanmar, and Syria. I want to challenge that privilege, which is why I am requesting that Bassam Khabieh’s photo series remain in full on Emerson’s campus.

There are two choices when being a photographer: How to take the picture and whether or not to publish it. As a Syrian native and former resident of the neighborhoods that are the settings for most of his photographs, Bassam Khabieh knows just how difficult that first choice is and how essential the second. His work pays homage to those who are still stranded in Syria, struggling to survive. It grapples with the surreal and terrifying truth of war and chooses not to hold back. He chooses this for the sake of his people, for the sake of human rights, for truth’s sake.

Imagine going to death-defying and traumatizing lengths to document the destruction of your home and your neighbors and your friends purely to ask for help, and then being censored by the audience you so greatly need support from. It thoroughly upsets me that as a top-tier institution, we have chosen to mirror the attitudes of not only this country but the majority of the international community, towards the humanitarian crisis consuming Syria.

As a student, it is my job to willingly subject myself to worldly perspectives. It is my duty to broaden and deepen my understanding of the world at large and my context within it. I cannot fulfill this academic duty in a carefully insulated bubble, and I cringe at the thought of doing my work in an institution that filters the world for my consumption.

And yet, I understand how uncomfortable the truth can be. Walking into the library and being confronted with another way of life I may have considered, but not encountered, can be shocking. The effects of war are brutal and hard to deal with, but unfortunately, war does not care how uncomfortable it makes us. War does not care about traumas or fears. It creates them in places where there were none at all. Change does not occur as a product of ignorance or censorship, but knowledge and exposure, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.

I am writing this letter to ask that we reinstate the full collection of images taken by Bassam Khabieh by moving them to a safer, yet better-suited gallery/exhibition space on campus where they can remain for the long term. I truly believe that the Emerson community can only benefit from holding space for this photo series, and will help inform it’s students on a very personal level, hopefully inspiring them towards action. In the words of Khabieh, “We need to tell this story.”

Problem
Some of the photographs from Bassam Khabieh's photo series in the library were taken down due to their content, and the photo series itself will not exit on Emerson's campus for much longer with so few students being able to see it.

Solution
Put the series back up in full in a more long-term exhibition/gallery space so that students can see and be reminded of the existence of brothers and sisters attempting to survive in war zones.

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