Saturday afternoon saw The Hyde Park Picture House host the first of a series of monthly events held by the Leeds branch of Amnesty International. Primarily pitched as a film event, ‘Human Rights, Human Wrongs’ featured one full-length documentary Children on the Frontline and two shorts: Journey to Calais and White Helmets. These were interspersed by a Syrian poetry recital and a panel discussion, featuring members of Leeds Syrian community, amongst representatives of Leeds based refugee support charities. The variety kept the event afloat as it chartered a course through the heavy topics of the Syrian refugee crisis, the ordeals faced by children who are caught up in wars and the odds which are stacked against those who eventually claim asylum here in the UK.
At the time of filming in 2013, the number of children reported to have died in 3 years stood at 11,000.
First up, the Channel 4 documentary Children on the Frontline followed a Syrian family through their daily lives in war-torn Aleppo. The film portrays the family’s struggle to preserve even an iota of normality whilst they resolutely remain in Aleppo with their father, a general in the Free Syrian Army. The impossibility of such a task quickly becomes apparent as a seven year old girl explains precisely what kind of bombs can be heard dropping in the background, with the same matter-of-fact tone as a child of the same age in the UK might talk about the contents of their lunchbox. In the next scene, she explores an abandoned building with her siblings, a fluffy toy bear in one hand and a gun almost the size of her in the other. The juxtaposition is harrowing and the image echoes the film’s statement that “the war in Syria is forcing a generation of children to sacrifice their innocence”. At the time of filming in 2013, the number of children reported to have died in 3 years stood at 11,000. With the recent attacks launched by Russia and the Assad regime, Aleppo has been all but obliterated and the current death toll undoubtedly stands much higher. The three films succeeded in humanising this number by showing how morals, family relationships, and compassion survive in Aleppo against all odds, as small triumphs on the side of human dignity.
In a time when the political brawl over in the US is grabbing all the headlines, the incessant attacks on human life on the opposite side of the globe are being pushed out of public consciousness. Yet the number of displaced people in the world today is not one that can be ignored, with the figure currently standing at 65.3 million.
With this having been a pay-as-you-feel event, of which the £251 worth of profits raised will be split equally between Amnesty and a local refugee charity, the relatively sparse attendance which it got is a shame. In a time when the political brawl over in the US is grabbing all the headlines, the incessant attacks on human life on the opposite side of the globe are being pushed out of public consciousness. Yet the number of displaced people in the world today is not one that can be ignored, with the figure currently standing at 65.3 million. If this was the population of a country it would be bigger than the UK. ‘Human Rights, Human Wrongs’ is keeping the issue present in people’s minds, and providing a space for collaborative action for positive change. The next event is at 3pm on 20th November at The Hyde Park Picture House and will be well worth your time.
Image Courtesy of ITN