Award-winning documentary Red Lines depicts democratization attempts in Syria

Last evening in White Gravenor, Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, and Andrea Kalin—in conjunction with the Georgetown University Lecture Fund—presented and discussed the award-winning documentary Red Lines, a historical piece that began filming as recently as fall of 2011 on democratization attempts in Syria.

The film captures a fleeting snapshot of the days in Syria after the revolution and before the rise of ISIS as it follows Moustafa and his partner on the ground, Razan Shalab al-Sham, a Syrian socialite turned activist, as they attempt to bring aid to Syrians within the liberated territories and to forces for democracy in the war-torn country.

“No one has access like we do,” Moustafa says in the film, an access which Moustafa feels is both a failure on the part of the US government and an obligation for the Syrian Emergency Task Force’s continual efforts.

Al-Sham, whose family in one scene says that her activist skills were honed in planning parties during high school, curates a smuggler’s network to bring in mattresses and school supplies to rebel controlled towns and vets militants groups to test their trustworthiness while Moustafa lobbies the US and English governments. They attempt to set up a democratic town near the Turkish border to encourage the US government to give aid and arms to the rebels as their networks are compromised, chemical weapons use emerges, and extremists gain more and more territory.

Both Moustafa and Kalin recognize how much the situation has changed and were eager to return attention to the humanitarian crisis and reconstruction.

When asked about the resurgent interest in the region after ISIS’ consolidation, Moustafa was ambivalent. There was bitterness at having been ignored about the growing islamist threat and the recognition that routing al-Qaeda from Syria is now more difficult than it would have been in 2012, as well as appreciation that Syria continues to be in Americans’ minds.

Moustafa dubbed the war, “Obama’s Rwanda,” underlining the failure of the Obama administration to act while Kalin made a much stronger comparison. Kalin says that any doubts she had about the necessity of this film were taken away when a Syrian woman asked her, “Have they forgotten us? Are we human?”, words she says echo that of her uncle who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz.

The group also mentioned the work done by the Holocaust Museum which displayed thousands of photos by a defected army photographer which document the torture and the killing of men, women, and children, under Assad’s regime.

When asked about the future, the panel which consisted of Moustafa, Kalin, and the film’s associate producer and translator, Qutaiba Idlbi, was hesitant. A quick, democratic victory no longer seems as near as it did in 2012 as ISIS, Hezbollah, and other foreign fighters gain territory in the country.

As Moustafa said, “Best case scenario and Assad slips and dies on a banana peel tomorrow and there’s some kind of resolution, there is still 20 years of rebuilding for Syria.” He urged those not registered in D.C. to write their representatives to support the establishment of a safe-zone in the north and south of the country to protect refugees and remind the Syrian people of American solidarity.

Photo: Georgetown University Lecture Fund via Facebook

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