Aleppo Photographer Brings Syrian Reality to the United Nations

Hagop Vanesian's exhibition, “My Homeland,” ran at the United Nations Headquarters from January 8-16.

Hagop Vanesian’s exhibition, “My Homeland,” ran at the United Nations Headquarters from January 8-16.

by Eva Bartlett

[re-published at: Dissident Voice, Rabble]

Twenty-six distinct photos, in black and white. Scenes of a ravaged city and the human beings within struggling to exist, let alone to find hope for the future. Gravestones of rubble. Homes looted, trashed. Civilians defending their country. Children aged beyond their years by the horrors they’ve lived.

Hagop Vanesian, a 44 year old Syrian-Armenian photographer from Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo (Halab), was meticulous in his choice of photographs for the exhibition, “My Homeland,” which opened at the United Nations Headquarters on January 8 and runs until January 16.

“I chose the photographs showing the destruction, and children. I have many photographs of children, maybe 25-30 percent are of children, these little angels suffering. They are innocent, they don’t understand about politics, they suffer a lot.”

Vanesian, a silversmith by trade, started taking photos twelve years ago, and very early on started documenting his city, building by building.

“Before the war, I was doing documentary photography all over Aleppo. Everyday, I took my camera and photographed people, how they were living,” Vanesian said. “When the war started, I decided to document it. It was very hard at first. For the first couple of days, I couldn’t take a single photograph. This was my birth place, where I grew up. I have memories there, but even my memories were destroyed, especially in Old Aleppo.”

Iman Tahan, from Aleppo, spoke of her feelings after seeing the photos. “These photos, I wish they weren’t real, I wish nothing like this had happened to my country. I remember every street in these photos. I feel so sad, a lot of memories there.”

One of the memories she spoke of was the murder of her father, in his home, by terrorists.

“We have a well in our house, and since there’s no water—because the ‘rebels’ broke the pipes—my father was giving water to neighbours. He was in his house when a sniper entered the garden and shot him, killed him. Those ‘rebels’ don’t represent the Syrian people. Syrian soldiers aren’t fighting against normal people, they’re fighting against people equipped with the most advanced weapons and trained just to come to Syria. They destroy our homes, churches, mosques. But what makes me happy, our people, because they love Syria so much, decided not to leave. Even my dad, he knew he lived in a very dangerous area, but he decided not to leave, and he paid for it with his life.”

(fr Sep 2014): Ambassador al-Ja’afari: israelis/qataris/jordanians…setting the stage for further terrorist infiltration into Syrian territory

“Jehbat al-Nusra terrorist fighters, which as you know, according to the Security Council resolutions, is an off-shoot of al-Qaeda, affiliate to al-Qaeda. These terrorist fighters of al-Nusra Front have succeeded—with the help of the Israeli side, and the Qatari intervention and assistance and involvement—succeeded in occupying almost all the Syrian side of the line of demarcation. Meaning that the terrorists have replaced the UNDOF forces deployed on the Syrian side of the line of demarcation. Almost all of the UNDOF forces deployed on the Syrian side have moved now to the Israeli side. And reduced their mandate given to them by the Security Council disengagement forces agreement of 1974 to only observing these alarming developments on the Syrian side.

Meaning that, they withdrew to the Israeli side and accepted to play the role of only watching what’s going on on the other side, which is supposedly the headquarters of UNDOR on the Syrian side and the UNDOF’s locations and positions along this line of demarcation. Unfortunately, the UNDOF forces evacuated suddenly its positions on the Syrian side of the line of demarcation, in violation of the mandate, and without prior consultations with the Syrian government. This act paved the opportunity for the terrorists to take over UNDOF forces’ positions, materials, equipments, and created by doing so a kind of ‘safe zone’ for the terrorists to operate against the Syrian army, departing from the UNDOF positions they occupied.

Interview: Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari on Sovereignty, Terrorism, and the Failure of the UN

DSCN6744Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari, a veteran diplomat and Syrian Arab Republic Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Al-Akhbar English/Eva Bartlett

By: Eva Bartlett

January 17, 2015, Al-Akhbar     [republished at: Global Research, Medhaj News, Counter Punch, Consortium News,, Oriental Review]

*in Arabic

**note: blog version includes prelude slightly longer than, and worded differently than, published Al-Akhbar version. Changes in my preferred terminology or reflecting Dr. al-Ja’fari’s words as he said them are made in red.

I have been the only Ambassador at the United Nations since 1945 whose speeches were cut off, or not recorded at all.” -Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari

On January 8, in his sparsely-furnished New York City office, the Syrian Arab Republic Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari, granted me a personal interview. During his work at UN sessions, the Ambassador maintains a poised and articulate manner. In person, he is just as articulate, but with a warm, charismatic personality.

A polyglot fluent in four languages, recipient of three Doctorates, diplomat for three plus decades, the Syrian Representative to the UN had much more to say than the generous half hour allowed. What follows are the words of a highly-educated diplomat—now restricted to a 25 mile radius of the UN Headquarters—mainstream media news seemingly doesn’t want heard.

We began by speaking about the exhibition of photographs by an Aleppo-based, Syrian photographer which opened the same day at the United Nations Headquarters.

Al-Akhbar: How did this exhibition come about?

Ambassador al-Ja’afari: This is the first breakthrough we’ve had at the level of the United Nations since the beginning of what is commonly called “the Syrian crisis.” For four years, I have been trying very hard to do something inside the UN. Every time we attempted to do something, we were confronted by a huge amount of bureaucracy, excuses, apologies (sometimes), denial of our rights (sometimes), negligence, etc.

I’m very glad that we finally succeeded in organizing this exhibition — which doesn’t address the whole, dramatic picture of the Syrian crisis, but only focuses on what happened to and in Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria, after the capital, Damascus. It’s about Syria, it’s about the Syrian people. It’s not about the Syrian government or the Syrian opposition or the Syrian coalition thugs or Da’esh (ISIS). It’s about Syria, about what happened in Aleppo, through undeniable photos.

The exhibition is the work of a highly-professional Syrian photographer of Armenian origin, who is himself a citizen of Aleppo. He is an eyewitness to the terrorist rampage that hit this beautiful city, Aleppo, which has always been a cradle of civilization. He is suffering greatly. He lost his home, his family. He will show only 26 photos, but he has an archive of thousands of photos. He has complete archives of Aleppo, before and after, building by building, how it was before and how it became.

AA: Why do you think that the UN has allowed this exhibition now? You mentioned you’d wanted to sponsor exhibitions in the past but hadn’t been allowed.

Ambassador al-Ja’afari: The Saudi mission, the French mission, the Danish mission, the British mission, the German mission… they have done counter-Syrian government activities in the UN.

Every time we complained about it they said, “You can do the same.” Today we said, “We have an exhibition.” They were cornered. They couldn’t say no (chuckles), because they kept telling me “You can do the same.” We are not attacking Germany or France or others, we are showing the reality in our country.

very interesting! “US Culture and the Syrian Migration Role – Dr. Bashar Jaafari”

This was from 2013, before the US put a travel restriction of 25 miles on Ambassador al-Ja’afari.  Prior to that, he was fulfilling his role as a diplomat and meeting with Syrian-Americans who both desired to hear him speak and also wanted updates on their country.  Very worthwhile listening!

Dr. Bashar Jaafari, Syrian ambassador to the United Nations hosted by SAF, the Syrian American Forum in Orlando, Florida [filmed by Nizar Abboud and sub-titled by Arabi Souri]

Mahmoud Kohail and Palestinian youths do Palestine PROUD :)

Was very happy to see Mahmoud Kohail, from Gaza, sharing his talent on stage. No matter what the zionists do to Palestinians, they can NEVER kill their culture, karama, hope, life. Viva Palestine!


I interviewed Mahmoud in 2010, when he’d only been studying the qanoon for a year. Already he was incredibly talented.

“Mahmoud Kohail, 8, has studied the qanoon for just under a year, but took first prize in a Palestine-wide competition in oriental music for ages 7 to 11.

“Everyone asked me how many years he had been studying,” laughs Najjar. “When I told them it had been only 80 hours, they couldn’t believe me.”

Emad Kohail, Mahmoud’s father, is an accomplished oud player, and his mother a talented singer.

Also a doctor of mental health and alternative medicine, Emad Kohail explains how music has helped his son.

“Mahmoud suffered the same post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that nearly all Gaza’s children suffer, as well as an attention deficit disorder,” he says.

“Music has made an immense difference in Mahmoud’s behaviour. It has been a therapy for his PTSD and as a means of teaching him to focus.””


One of the great things about this Arab Idol story is that not only is he and the other Palestinian youths doing Palestine proud, but in the case of Mahmoud, from suffering Gaza, he’s overcoming the incredible and unjust obstacles the zionists force on Palestinians.

Shine on, Palestine!

Appreciate the difference between Resistance and takfiris

Tim Anderson graphic

The wise words of Professor Tim Anderson:

Appreciate the difference between the Islam of Hezbollah and Iran, on the one hand, and that of the Saudis, Qatar, ISIS, FSA etc on the other – and no, it isn’t mainly to do with Sunni and Shiia …”

challenge Canada’s nefarious role in war on Syria, Iraq

Words of Ken Stone, a friend who has long been active in anti-war movement in Canada, and who is a member of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War. Ken Stone lectures on R2P (see attached business card at bottom):

“…both the Taliban and ISIS are creations of the USA. The Taliban was organized, funded, trained, and armed by the USA in order to drive the forces of the former Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda was created for the same purpose and later helped the USA to overthrow the government of the former Yugoslavia and to foment trouble for Russia in Chechnya. ISIS is the direct result of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Saddam Hussein had never allowed Al-Qaeda to exist in Iraq. But the US & UK invasion destroyed the state of Iraq and opened a Pandora’s box for Al Qaeda to emerge. ISIS grew out of the covert aggression against Syria, sponsored by the so-called “Friends of Syria” Group of countries which includes the USA, Canada, Britain, France, Turkey, the Arab monarchies, and others. In the illegal aggression against Syria since 2011, Obama, Harper, Cameron, et al have openly funded terrorist mercenaries who have laid waste to much of that country and its infrastructure, beheaded thousands, sold girls into slavery, destroyed churches and monasteries, executed prisoners of war, killed journalists, caused the deaths of over 200,000 people, turned millions into internal and external refugees, and produced youtube videos proudly displaying their crimes against humanity. Where was the indignation of the politicians and the mainstream media for last four years over the war crimes in Syria?