Graphic images of torture carried out by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are on display for the next 10 days at the United Nations building in New York City. The exhibition, “Caesar Photos: Inside Syrian Authorities’ Prisons,” is comprised of 30 photographs of men, women and children who were brutally tortured, starved or killed.
Fifteen member states sponsored the exhibition, which is sprinkled with warnings of disturbing images – some of which representatives suggested was precisely the point. The bodies of twenty-seven men, two children, and one woman were shown, most of them starved, some with gouged eyes, another severely burned.
“It is imperative that we at the United Nations not look away,” Michele J Sison, U.S. deputy representative to the U.N., said of the exhibit and the war in Syria. “These images are the graphic depiction of how the Assad regime treats its citizens.”
"We hope that this exhibition will serve as a reminder of the imperative to pursue a political solution to the conflict,” Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the U.N., said.
The photographs came from some 55,000 images smuggled out of Syria by a man with the pseudonym Caesar, a senior sergeant in the Syrian army and a forensic photographer. He took the photos between September 2011 and August 2013 while working at a military hospital, where his job was to photograph the corpses of people who had died in regime-run centers. He would then put computerized memory sticks with copies of the photos into his shoes in order to smuggle them out.
The FBI found the photos to be authentic, according to the Guardian, and in July, Caesar testified before Congress after bringing the photos to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington. The photos served as “direct evidence” of “systematic torture” and mass killings during the civil war in Syria, experts on forensics and war crimes determined in early February.
More than 210,000 people have officially died in the war in Syria, which is now entering its fifth year. Rights groups, however, say that far more, perhaps 85,000 more, have likely been killed. Nearly half of the 210,000 casualties were civilians. Since the war began, more 3.8 million people have fled the country, with many settling in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.