Orwa Nyrabia is shown at the Sarajevo Film Festival on July 14, after he brought Syrians films before an international audience. (Elvis Barukcic/Getty) Ten days ago Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia was among the disappeared, held in an underground location after being abducted by the Syrian military on Aug. 23. Then, last Wednesday, he was taken before civilian court in Damascus which promptly acquitted him and allowed him to go home.
The exact charges against Nyrabia remain obscure, but Syria has laws on its books that permit prosecution of artists for weakening the national morale or spreading false accusations. Nyrabia and his wife Diana El-Jeiroudi ran a respected film festival that brought international films to Syria and he was known for his encouragement of young Syrian filmmakers.
When El-Jeiroudi raised the alarm about her husband, who had failed to board a flight to Cairo, international filmmakers responded with an outcry that included voices such as Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Richard Linklater and Costa Gavras. The Toronto International Film Festival also weighed in with its concern and the story was picked up by the media, including CBC's Q cultural affairs show.
Now home, and rested after a few days of freedom, Nyrabia wrote to Q to thank everybody for their "touching support." Here is his bold message, which repeats his call for freedom:
"Dear Friends in Syria and around our brave new world,
Your outstanding solidarity with me, during my three weeks trip under Syria's ground, had the most touching impact. You have all made what could have been a much longer and more violent journey a much easier one, no matter how unforgettable it is. Now, after I am over-ground and as I read and hear and watch your most kind and compassionate words, I bow to all of you, gratefully, and I know, of course, that your solidarity was meant to everyone who is imprisoned for their opinion, meant to manifest your profound protest against injustice, abuse and repression, wherever they are, in Syria today, in another country tomorrow...
It was because of you, and also because of the exceptional kindness of 100 new friends I lived with there, underground, that I am safe and sound today, full of hope and pain, and overwhelmed with determination.
Political Prison is a shame, a stigma, staining the soul of every living human being on earth, it is our responsibility, all of us, to create a world without it, a world that feels ashamed it ever existed.
Thanks to everyone, to those who worked, wrote, thought, signed or prayed... Where were we? Yes... a massacre in Darayya, a massacre in Idlib, a year since Yahia was imprisoned, filmmaker Tamer Awwam was killed, many others too...
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