Sunday, 17 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: City of Ghosts

7th December 2017 - As Edmund Burke, British philosopher and statesman, once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” When ISIS seized control of the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2013, one would have forgiven the inhabitants for submitting to their tyrannical rule. However, in the face of such monstrous cruelty, a group of citizens took it upon themselves to report on and expose the atrocities committed by Islamic State against innocent people. This movement became known, as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS).

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To highlight the Global Migration Film Festival and the Together campaign, Ciné-ONU, in partnership with IOM and UNESCO, screened ‘City of Ghosts’, the latest film from award winning director Matthew Heineman. The documentary follows citizen journalists as they face the hardships of living undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives daily in defiance of one of the most terrifying evils of the 21st Century.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Deborah Seward (UNRIC), with three guest speakers: Abdell Baset (a former detainee of an extremist group, now a chef and volunteer in Belgium); Saorla McCabe (UNESCO), and Eugenio Ambrosi (IOM).    

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In response to the question of European responsibility towards refugees, Eugenio Ambrosi was forthright in saying that, “our job is to make sure that Europe doesn’t turn into a land of ghosts itself, we need to make people feel welcome and not abandon them.”

Another poignant feature of the film was the way ISIS sought to clamp down on free speech by ruthlessly hunting down RBSS journalists. However, this suffering is often lost when figures on crimes against journalists are presented. UNESCO’s Saorla McCabe spoke about how the film highlighted perfectly that, “behind every murder statistic is a life.” The audience was made painfully aware of this during the screening when a member of RBSS shook uncontrollably after looking at photos of his dead colleagues.

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Undoubtedly the most powerful part of the panel discussion was the testimony of Abdell Baset about his detention, torture and eventual release by an extremist group in Syria. A visibly moved Baset easily found common ground with the journalists of RBSS, saying of the film that, “I feel the suffering and I remember the suffering. It gives me the motivation to be a better person and to fight for my friends and my family.”

When an audience member asked what else individuals could do to help refugees, Eugenio Ambrosi said simply, “We need to engage on these issues on an individual level. Numbers do not matter, what matters is that we make ourselves heard.”

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Find the handout for our event here

For more information on ‘City of Ghosts’ click here

Learn more about the Global Migration Film Festival

Discover the TOGETHER campaign

Why not have a look at the photos from the event on our Flickr

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @CineONU #CineONU

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