Mr. Yukio Takasu
Department of Management
7 January 2015
It has come to my attention that on 8 – 16 January 2015 the United Nations Secretariat Building will host an exhibit for the Syrian Arab Republic Mission featuring the photographs of Syrian regime propagandist Hagop Vanesian, in an event entitled “My Homeland”. The UN cannot in good conscience host an exhibit that callously promotes a regime that is responsible for immense death and unprecedented destruction. By doing so, the UN condones the atrocities committed by Syrian forces, and serves as a mouthpiece for Assad’s heinous war crimes.
As you are aware, the Syrian regime is responsible for the worst humanitarian catastrophe witnessed in the 21st century: over 200,000 people have been killed, 10 million Syrians are displaced and refugees, and tens of thousands of men, women and children are illegally detained, tortured and sexually abused. The UN Security Council and UN General Assembly have condemned the Syrian regime’s deployment of barrel bombs, ballistic missiles and chemical weapons in civilian areas—atrocities which the UN Secretary-General says constitute crimes against humanity. And the Independent Commission of Inquiry recently concluded that Syrian regime and affiliated forces are responsible for the majority of the worst violations in Syria.
The Syrian Mission uses Mr. Vanesian’s photography to whitewash the regime’s war crimes and perpetuate its narrative: that it is a victim rather than the primary perpetrator of death and destruction in Syria. Indeed Mr. Vanesian has praised Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma al-Assad and uses his photographs to tell a false story of the Assad’s self-proclaimed humanitarianism. In thanks for his pro-regime activities, Mr. Vanesian is awarded access to and is at times embedded with Syrian regime forces in Aleppo. Mr. Vanesian’s photographs include images of the destruction and suffering in Syria, the undeniable consequence of the Assad regime’s brutal war on the Syrian people.
The “My Homeland” exhibit perpetuates a pro-Assad narrative; it is shameful that the UN Headquarters will be host to this. By agreeing to host this Syrian-regime sponsored exhibition, the UN violates the policy governing the United Nations Exhibit Committee, which demands that “all exhibits must be compatible with the aims, purposes and principles of the United Nations.” There is no question that the proposed “My Homeland” event is incompatible with the principles of an institution dedicated to international peace and security.
On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and all of those Syrians working for a democratic, peaceful future for their country, I ask that you cancel the “My Homeland” exhibit. Anything less provides a public platform for Assad’s war crimes and damages the reputation of the UN. Given your office’s high standards of excellence, I trust that you will take immediate steps to correct this grave mistake and make clear that the UN cannot and will not knowingly promote a regime that slaughters its people.
Dr Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative to the United Nations