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Done to be seen

May 30, 2012

A photograph posted by @SyriaTweet on Twitpic.com shows a group of people, from various age groups, one hand flashing victory signs, the other holding a drawing. The drawing is of a UN Observer taking a photograph of a woman under rubble, with a word cloud above his head reading “say cheese.” The UN soldier is documenting instead of saving the victim, thus the drawing implies that camera signifies inaction. Another drawing shows Assad holding a blood stained axe shaking hands with Kofi Annan on a pile of bodies, while posing in front of UN observers cameras. Elsewhere, there is a photograph of group of protestors holding a sign that reads: “UN is killing us.” While the first image suggests that the UN is watching and not doing, the rest imply that not only UN is not “doing” anything, but rather it is responsible for the continued violence in Syria.

The situation recalls the war in Kosovo, where people were killed in numbers in the presence of peacekeeping forces and journalists. It is not that the UN forces are there on the front line marching with Assad forces, but it could be that the drawings suggest that the recent horrific massacre in Houla would not take place in the absence of UN forces. It is the Observers’ media paraphernalia that invites the forces of destruction, it is the camera that visualizes violence, that in words of Jean-Luc Nancy, [violence] wants to leave a mark, wants to erupt into the field of vision and reveal itself in form of an image. While people are murdered in darkness no doubt, but as Virilio notes, there is no war without representation. The massacre in Houla was committed to be mediated, distributed and watched. It is a message to the global community, to the opposition groups and to the regimes allies. It is done to show the extent to which the regime is willing to go to guard its power. (thanks to TK)

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