Bassel Shahade, a Syracuse University graduate film student and Syrian native, was killed in the Homs massacre in Syria this spring, while working as a citizen journalist and filmmaker. Syracuse University commemorated him on October 10 with a memorial service, a panel about the situation in Syria and a benefit concert.
The panel included Malek Jandali, a Syrian musician and activist, and Rami Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian journalist who is a U.S. citizen. Jandali and Khouri, along with the two other panelists, spoke of Shahade’s work and shared their views on the uprisings across the Middle East over the last eighteen months.
Khouri said that Shahade was special not because he was extraordinary, but because he was an ordinary person.
“He reflected the ordinary sentiments of millions of people across the Arab world, and billions across the entire world, who just wanted to live a normal life,” he said.
Jandali said he believed the current situation in Syria could not be considered a war, because war involves two armies. Rather, he considers it terrorism. He asked the audience to imagine what it would be like if President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. army to bomb Syracuse.
“Imagine an F-16 coming and bombing this building,” he said. “What can you do?”
Khouri said he believes the world will eventually have to intervene in Syria.
“We learned in Rwanda, we learned in Kosovo, that you can’t stay aside very long,” he said.
Although Khouri did not know Shahade, he said that he must have learned a great deal during his time in Syracuse.
“The knowledge that he gained was both knowledge about technical issues, like the depth of field of a lens, but also deeper issues about the depth of human commitment to liberty,” he said, “and the depth of the power of the human heart.”
The panelists noted that Shahade used his craft as a filmmaker to tell the story of the millions of people in the Middle East who, like him, wanted social justice and freedom.