Every now and then, the voice of one individual looking out from our computer screens touches us in a way that bridges the gap of technology, language, and distance. The immediacy of their message and the earnestness of their words make up for the rawness of their report. Video was one way that Father Frans van der Lugt attracted international attention to the humanitarian crisis within Syria before he was killed in Homs on Monday. This week, we remember Father Frans through his own words, and bring you other stories from citizens and activists using video to shine a spotlight on abuse.
Here are highlights from recently featured videos on the channel:
Earlier this year, we shared a video taken inside the old city of Homs. The Syrian city was in the midst of aerial bombardment that left its residents without essential goods. In the video, an elder Dutch priest pleads to the international community to assist with aid. “We love life and love living it,” 72-year-old Father Frans said. “We do not want to die of pain and hunger.” The Jesuit priest had lived in Homs for several decades, and was an outspoken voice for peace and humanitarian assistance during the Syrian War. On Monday night, the New York Times reports, Father Frans was killed by a lone gunman in Homs.
In addition, this week The Violations Documentation Center in Syria, one of the only organizations keeping track of daily deaths, detentions, and disappearances in the war, released their annual statistical report. Sadly, this year’s report was published in the absence of the group’s director, Razan Zaitouneh, who was kidnapped from the VDC’s offices last December.
Syrian Refugees in Jordan
Citizen video takes us into to two very different moments in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, now home to over 100,000 Syrian refugees. In late March, children living in Zaatari staged their first performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear. YouTube videos reveal the months of preparation that culminated in the show. The footage provides a striking juxtaposition to more recent citizen reports from the camp that show a tragically different scene: violent clashes between residents and the camp’s security force last weekend left one refugee dead and dozens of others injured.
Ukraine’s internal investigation into deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters from February 18-20 has found Berkut special forces responsible for 17 deaths, using video as evidence of their excess use of force. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which conducted the inquiry, released a video on YouTube that it says shows uniformed snipers shooting at protesters near Independence Square on February 20th. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told reporters that 12 members of the special forces were identified as snipers and arrested. For other videos of the violence in Kiev, which killed more than 100 people this February, see this Human Rights Channel blog and playlist of citizen videos.
Ethnic violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State (also known as Arakan State) has not only driven thousands of Rohingya Muslims from their homes, but has also led to the recent evacuation of international aid workers. On Monday, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said those developments “will only increase the vulnerability of this community.” This local video report shows ransacked offices of UNICEF and UNHCR, aid workers leaving the country, and testimony by displaced Muslims about the resulting increases of food prices.
Catch the latest citizen videos by following the Human Rights Channel on Twitter (@ythumanrights).