Syrian filmmaker, Orwa Nyrabia, missing
On Thursday, the 23rd of August, Syrian filmmaker and co-founder of DoxBox Film Festival Orwa Nyrabia disappeared on his way to Cairo from Damascus. A statement to international press and film organisations was promptly released by his wife, Syrian filmmaker Diana al Jeiroudi: 'Syrian film producer Orwa Nyrabia disappeared on his way heading to Cairo at 5:00 pm, on August 23, 2012. I lost contact with him soon after his arrival at Damascus International Airport. According to Egyptian Airlines, he did not board the plane, which indicates that he was arrested by the Syrian authorities at the airport,' she said. Over a week later, there has been no any update on Nyrabia's whereabouts.
Nyrabia, 35, is well-respected in the film community in Syria and internationally, having led a movement towards an independent film industry defying the government's attempt to control cultural and intellectual production and activity there. Individuals and organisations around the world that know or have worked with Nyrabia and DoxBox, including Amsterdam's International Documentary Film Festival, Arab Filmfestival Berlin, the New York-based Network of Arab Arthouse Screens and countless others including veteran director Martin Scorsese, have voiced their concern over his disappearance.
DoxBox, an international documentary film festival in Damascus, was to have its fifth event in March, 2012. The organisers issued a statement condemning the world's silence at a time when thousands of Syrians were being killed by president Bashar Al Assad's forces. As a festival focusing on films concerning human rights and social justice, in its 2012 edition DoxBox decided to turn the cameras onto Syria, partnering with Reel Festival to organise DoxBox Global Day and screening Syrian dissident cinema in a number of locations around the world. 'We want the world to witness how poverty, oppression and isolation do not prevent humans from being spectacularly brave, stubborn and dignified', they stated on their website.
I spoke with Dan Gorman, coordinator of Reel Festival, who expressed his concern over Nyrabia, whom he described as inspirational in his interest in Syrian culture. 'Especially now, it is vital for the arts and culture of Syria to be represented [and to] present a broader understanding of the place and of the country. Cultural practitioners need to be able to have their voices heard', he said.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained in Syria for supporting the uprising against the Assad regime. Intellectuals questioning or critiquing the government have become targets for the authorities, some of them beaten or killed, often brutalised in ways that attacked their particular talents. These include singer Ibrahim Kashoush, whose throat was slashed and his vocal cords ripped out in July 2011, and cartoonist Ali Ferzat, whose hands were broken in August 2011. There are many more. Other filmmakers detained or killed in the last 18 months include Shadi Abu Fakher (July 2011), Ali Sheik Khoder (September 2011), Nidal Hassan (November 2011), Bassel Shehade (May 2012), and Bassam Yahya AlDin (July 2012, the latter two both having been killed).
To visit the 'Free Orwa Nyrabia' Facebook page, please click here.