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The Disappearance of Syrian Filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia

Tribeca joins the global artistic community in calling for the release and freedom of Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia, detained last week in Damascus.

Update: September 12, 2012
Great news! Orwa Nyrabia was released back to his family.

In this disturbing piece in The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright reports on the disappearance last week of award-winning Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia before he was expected to board a flight from Damascus to Cairo. As Wright explains, Nyrabia—a producer, actor, writer, and director—is a leading figure in the Syrian (and international) film community, having “created Dox Box, the largest documentary-film festival in the Arab world” four years ago with his wife, Diana El Jeiroudi. (The fifth edition of Dox Box was canceled this spring, “in protest against the killing and oppression of civilians in this country.”)

For almost 18 months, Syria has been embroiled in a tumultuous and violent civil war, with the government enacting a brutal crackdown on a revolutionary public. There are no easy answers to this conflict, triggered by the “Arab Spring” movement in the region.

In any society, artists are needed to tell important stories without fear of recrimination or accusation, all the more so in a culture deprived of freedom. To that end, Wright characterizes Nyrabia’s crucial presence in this war-torn climate: “In this brutalized society, he was also a person who still held onto joy and hope, qualities that are hunted down in Syria by forces dedicated to suffocating the best in human nature.”

Martin Scorsese released a statement about Nyrabia’s disappearance, which we take to heart: “I was alarmed by the news that the Syrian actor and producer Orwa Nyrabia has been arrested by the Syrian regime, held in an undisclosed location and denied any communication with the outside world, including his own immediate family. The international film community must remain vigilant, and shine a light on every injustice perpetrated against our fellow artists. We need to maintain pressure to ensure the immediate release of Orwa Nyrabia.”

Tribeca joins the global artistic community in calling for the release and freedom of Orwa Nyrabia.

Learn more about Orwa Nyrabia.


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