Breathing Death: One Year after the Chemical Massacre

27 August 2014

As Syria’s tragedy mutates and multiplies into many, it has become simpler for the world to dismiss it as a “savage civil war” and to reduce the struggles of Syrians’ into Assad’s painful self-fulfilling prophecy of “war on terrorism”. But as the world settles itself in the comfortable seat of a concerned observer, episodes like Assad’s chemical attack on Ghouta serve as a poignant reminder that this was, and still is first and foremost a revolution against an insufferable tyrant.

As the first anniversary of the Ghouta massacre rears its head, Syrians behind the #BreathingDeath remembrance campaign attempt to remind the world of a gruesome August night when thousands of people were murdered in silence, and of the thousands that have been murdered everyday since then.

ملصق في ذكرى مرور عام على مجزرة الكيماوي....المصدر: صفحة حملة استنشاق الموت على الفيسبوك
A poster of remembrance of the chemical weapons massacre. Source: #BreathingDeath Facebook page.

The campaign, which started on social media to commemorate the chemical attacks massacre, spread quickly into the offline world with demonstrations and sit-in organized in France, the US, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, Spain, Belgium, the UK and Italy. The sit-ins have a simple demand: bring those responsible to justice.

Syrian cities across the country showed solidarity through events ranging from demonstrations to candle lights around the telling posters titled: “Death can come in any color, not only red. The silent death is the one that comes in purple,” in reference to the purple and choked faces of the victims.

Not surprisingly the most moving commemorations were organized in the towns of Ghouta that still suffers the terrible toll of the massacre. The documentary, “The Congestion of Death”, released as part of the campaign, provides a stunning account of the events based on interviews with local survivors.

عمل للفنانة يارا النجم في ذكرى مجزرة الكيماوي....المصدر: الصفحة الفنية للفنانة يارا النجم على الفيس بوك
A poster by Yara al-Najm in support of the campaign. Source: Yara al-Najm's Facebook page.

Syrian artists commemorating the events chose to contrast the cruelty of chemical weapons and the innocence of children, who made up most of the victims. Fadi Zyada’s poster shows a little girl holding a gas mask made of flowers to the backdrop of the scores of children who died in the massacre. Meanwhile, Yara al-Najm’s portrays a candy with a chemical weapons sign, a most realistic portrayal of the country’s stolen childhood.

Syrians need no reminder of their living tragedy, but the #BreathingDeath campaign means to remind the world of its own moral tragedy.

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad