LIVE UPDATES: A Russian art group sponsored by the government has made a tasteless 2017 calendar featuring Syrian women posing with statements of gratitude to their “Russian liberators.”
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“We recall that International Memorial is one of the oldest civic organizations in Russia, whose main purpose is to commemorate the memory of victims of political repressions. ‘Foreign agent’ is one of the most widespread labels regarding ‘enemies of the people’ in Stalin’s time and regarding dissenters in a later era. Today this label has returned and as in the old days, is being used without presentation of any substantive claims at all regarding the activity of the organizations arbitrarily included in the register of ‘organizations fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent.'”
In an appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court, Memorial pointed out that while it was international in that it had members in other countries, it was registered as a Russian NGO. International Memorial has 62 Russian group members and 6 foreign chapters, including in Belarus, Germany, Italy, France, Kazakhstan and Latvia.
By definition, said Memorial, an international organization that had been accepted for registration couldn’t be characterized as a “foreign agent.” The Justice Ministry didn’t accept this argument, so Memorial has concluded that no “international organizations can therefore be created and recognized in Russia.”
Without waiting for the Zamoskvoretsky Court decision, last week Tverskoy District Court already fined International Memorial 300,000 rubles ($4,816). In addition, in a separate court decision on December 14 at the same court, Memorial Human Rights Center, a related group which is registered separately, was also fined 300,000 rubles for refusing to register as a “foreign agent.”
The decision was made on the basis of an administrative report issued by Roskomnadzor, the state censor, on the basis of a complaint [donos] by NOD [National Liberation Movement], a pro-government Russian ultra-nationalist group headed by Yevgeny Fyodorov, a member of the State Duma from the United Russia Party.
Memorial is also concerned that the accusations of “child pornography” leveled at Yuri Dmitriyev, the director of their Karelian branch, could be fabricated. The director, a prominent figure who has researched Stalin-era archives for years and uncovered mass graves in Sandarmokha, has been arrested on charges of filming an adopted daughter nude.
In a recent report, The New York Times described this method was used against a number of Kremlin critics, although it may be that the claims have some validity in some cases.
A Russian art group sponsored by the government has made a tasteless 2017 calendar featuring Syrian women posing with statements of gratitude to their “Russian liberators,” 7:40 na perrone reported.
The calendar, shown at a site titled in English “From Syria With Love” shows Syrian women posing in stylized knitted versions of kokoshniki, which are traditional Russian headdresses.
The calendar was made by a group called Grazhdanin [Citizen] School of Modern Art which describes itself as a “non-commercial organization to support and develop civic and social initiatives.”
The cover also contains a notice at the bottom that the calendar was produced with support from the Russian Youth Union with a grant from the President of the Russian Federation (dated April 5, 2016, no. 68-rp), after winning a competition.
In reporting on this bizarre artifact, 7:40 na perrone, a morning news service of the US-sponsored Currenttime TV, put it in context of the brutal events occurring in Syria now (translation by The Interpreter):
“The evacuation is underway from eastern Aleppo of wounded, sick, children and rebels. According to the estimates of Jan Egeland, chief of the UN humanitarian mission in Syria, the total number of those who are to be evacuated is 30,000. EU leaders at a summit in Brussels agreed to increase pressure on the sides in the conflict in Syria; US Secretary of State John Kerry placed responsibility on Bashar Assad for the security of the evacuation (yesterday there were reports that a sniper shot at a convoy of evacuees). In Russia, however, a calender was released with the motifs of this war, in which 12 Syrian women thank Russian hero-liberators.”
By contrast, the producers of the calendar ignore the humanitarian crisis and take on a self-pitying stance:
The Western media, speaking of events in Syria, often forgets about Russian humanitarian aid, about the exceptional bravery of Russian soldiers, about the thousands of civilians liberated from virtual slavery.
But those who experienced the hardship of this war recall all this very well. Syrian girls prepared a present for New Year’s for Russian soldiers and officers, where 12 different heroine residents of Syria, each in her own way, speaks to those who daily risk their lives defending their homeland and their own. Each of the young Syrian women has a story, but they are united in the sense of their sincere gratitude to Russian soldiers.
As a sign of respect for Russia and its culture, all the models put on traditional Russian head gear — the kokoshnik.
Each of the 12 months has a different woman saying something that seems provocative even as it expresses various propaganda memes regarding’s the Kremlin’s version of the war. The premise is that the Syrian people invited Russia in to protect them and weren’t sure they would stay, but they did, and liberated them in glory.
A woman whose name is given as Karina Yunes from Latakia is shown holding up a set of keys, saying “And I offered you to come visit us in Tartus.”
Tartus is the site of the Russian air base.
For May, Ilka Al Hatib of Homs says, “How did you guess I love classical music?” The date of May 5 is circled with a note that this was the day the Mariinsky Theater’s Symphonic Orchestra played “With a Prayer for Palmyra” in actual Palmyra under the direction of Valery Gergiev.
Lujain Muhana of Latakia says, “I already know how I would spend that summer,” with the date of June 15 cirled and a note that this was the day that the Syrian-Libyan border was taken under control.
July has a double entendre in Russian; Fatima Duksi of Aleppo says, “I’d like to see you at least for a moment.” The word “moment” in Russian (mig) is spelled “MiG” which is the acronym for a fighter jet, so the sentence could also be read “I’d like to see you on a MiG.” The note there says in July, MiG-31s took part in combat in Syria.
September 30 is circled, the day Russia began its air bombing campaign. There Maram Himsi of Aleppo is quoted as saying “Do you remember how we met?”
October 7 is circled and noted as “the birthday of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed forces” — President Vladimir Putin
Here Yara Hasan of Tartus says “Tell me who your commander-in-chief is, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
And more in the same vein for the rest of the months.
It has not been confirmed that these are real women in Syria or that these are their names.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick