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The Human Rights Video Weekly: Bansky’s Take on Citizen Video from Syria

Posted on October 8, 2013 by Madeleine Bair

As the international effort to disable Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile gets underway, the destruction of the country by conventional weapons continues. This is just one of the stories we are monitoring this week through verified YouTube videos from around the world. Here are some other recent highlights we’ve featured on the channel:

Sudan

Citizen videos from the uprising in Sudan have noticeably slowed down after last week’s mass arrests and internet shutdown. We are still sourcing and verifying content that emerged before then and adding them to our Sudan Revolts playlist. Civil society groups have called on the African Union to open a commission of inquiry into allegations of human rights violations, and these video could corroborate such allegations. Note in this video of a silent protest of family members of the detained, a link in the YouTube description to a letter to the National Intelligence and Security Service demanding the release of their sons and daughters. 

Sudan families letter to Dir Natl Security

Syria

The latest video to draw attention to the war in Syria is not by a citizen journalist but by the artist, Banksy. His video, Rebel Rocket Attack, is an absurdist remix using elements of Syrian citizen video, the Disney character, Dumbo, and what appears to be a dramatic reenactment. We’ll let art critics debate the meaning, but audio of the piece appears to have been taken from this verified citizen video from rural Aleppo this February, showing rebels shooting down a helicopter.

This week, we’re keeping our eyes on:  

Egypt, where citizen videos document escalating violence committed by authorities and civilians. 

The most recent citizen videos of human rights issues can always be found on our Citizen Watch and Watching Syria video playlists. Both are updated daily.

Catch the latest citizen videos by following the Human Rights Channel on Twitter (@ythumanrights).

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Tanya Karanasios October 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Check out Darthnader’s thoughtful comments on Banksy’s video below. You can go to http://darthnader.net/2013/10/08/banksys-syria-video

    POSTED BY DARTHNADER ⋅ OCTOBER 8, 2013
    FILED UNDER BANKSY, REBELS, SYRIA
    I’ve always been a fan of Banksy’s work. One of the images on the right side of this blog is an image of a Banksy work. But I’m honestly just baffled by this latest video that’s supposed to be a comment on Syria. It seems devoid of any kind of substance. Either that, or all of us are missing something.

    But what is clear is the imagery Banksy uses is offensive, no matter the intent. The imagery is, on the one hand, Orientalist: the buffoon-ish Arabs, savagely celebrating killing a poor animal, while one jumps atop of it and the other is kicked in the shin by a child, amidst screams of “Allahu Akbar.” On the other hand, the context of the video given the imagery is offensive as well. The audio was pulled from this video, a video of a rebel attack on a Syrian warplane in Mennegh air base, near Aleppo. In the Banksy video, you can clearly discern the words “Governorate of Aleppo” being uttered at around the 15 second mark. Mennegh air base was a base that the Syrian regime used to launch airstrikes on Aleppo, causing immense destruction and ravaging the city. So what exactly is the message? That the Syrian regime warplanes are analogous to poor flying elephants? That the rebels in Syria are a bunch of ragtag buffoons going around trying to kill even the poorest creatures?

    Perhaps this wasn’t his intent. Perhaps the video is an exercise in “art for art’s sake.” But that is hard to believe given Banksy’s penchant for social commentary in his works. He’s obviously trying to say something, and unfortunately, if there’s a deeper message that we are all missing, if it does happen to be about the DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn or whatever, it is overshadowed by the very superficial picture painted on the surface.

    Banksy’s previous works that focused on the Middle East weren’t as baffling. On the apartheid wall in Palestine, he drew pictures of “paradises” beyond the wall, and one of a little girl patting down an Israeli soldier. These were celebrated as witty, daring works. He even paired these works with anecdotes, such as this conversation he had with a Palestinian man while painting the wall:

    Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.
    Banksy: Thanks
    Old man: We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.

    That’s why this latest video is so confusing to me. The video just seems to be a desperate attempt to weigh in on something for the sake of weighing in on it, and by doing so, led to this analysis that at best is ambiguous, and at worst, victimizes the Syrian regime by analogizing it to a poor cartoon animal.

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