As I go through old photographs of the Women and Genocide Symposium, I look forward to this year’s event.
Last year, I had the privilege of helping to organize DWAG’s 5th Annual Symposium on Women and Genocide: The Case of Darfur, in Washington, DC. As DWAG’S Communication Specialist, part of my job was to make sure that there was a record of the symposium in writing, video, and photographs. Several volunteers and professionals helped me in this important task. But since I have a background in photography, I decided to pick up the old camera and take pictures myself. Now, as I look through the images, I realize that watching the event from behind the camera gave me an opportunity to observe something very special: the emergence of hope.
Throughout the event, I photographed genocide survivors as they shared amazing stories of strength and resilience. When they spoke, a visible flow of emotions took over the room. Speakers embraced one another on the stage. Attendees discreetly wiped away tears from their cheeks. At one point, someone in the audience got up and distributed a bundle of their own tissues. These women’s narratives were obviously very sad – stories of rape, abuse, and persecution. But what I saw through the lens was an entire network of emotional support. The Symposium on Women and Genocide provided a safe space for survivors to share their personal stories in their own terms. It offered a web of solidarity and empathy – something that we so desperately need nowadays.
In between panels, as participants chatted over donuts and coffee, I photographed another interesting phenomenon. Experts met survivors for the first time, students talked to professors about their projects, and activists engaged members of the community. The symposium was the perfect place to network and meet people who are interested in human rights. Through the lens, I saw the beginning of new projects, collaborations, and ideas. I witnessed sparks that could generate solutions for the future. I contemplated a group that has not given up, and that continues to work together to end genocide worldwide.
In 2017, as violence and hate seem to grow daily, to participate in such a meaningful and inspiring event is even more important. I have made a commitment to take part in the symposium again – now the 6th Annual International Symposium– and I hope that you will join me. As DWAG’s president Niemat Ahmadi always says, “The symposium is not only a forum but a momentum.” Let’s embrace this momentum and build a long-standing movement against genocide. Let’s reinforce the sentiment that we can do better as human beings.
I will be there, and I’ll bring my camera.