Georgetown mural on US inmates draws worldwide attention and tears – Georgetowners | Candle Made Easy

Who would have thought that the launch of a black-and-white art exhibition of 18 slightly blurred, larger-than-life headshots glued with wheatpaste to a jagged brick wall in a long Georgetown alley would attract dozens of photojournalists and reporters from all over the world and some to bring cry?

It happened at 11:30 a.m. on July 20 in the alley on M Street between 31st Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW, as grieving family members, a State Department spokesman, a New York congressman and members of the Bring Our Families Home Campaign ‘ featured photos of their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and neighbors who were being held incommunicado and often tortured in filthy, overcrowded prisons abroad, some for as long as ten years long.

“These are the last photos many families have of their loved ones,” artist Isaac Campbell said as he fought back tears during the presentation. “It was my honor to use them for this exhibit, to raise awareness, to ensure they are not forgotten, to help the families and hopefully the 65 or so Americans who are unjustly imprisoned abroad. to give some hope that people will work together for their release.”

Among the 18 photos is a headshot of Olympic gold medalist and Women’s National Basketball Association player Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia for 153 days since July 20 on drug possession charges. Members of the Mystics team in DC for a game helped insert Griner’s picture – she plays for Phoenix Mercury – and stood with the families during the presentation.

Roger Rusesabagina, son of well-known Rwanda hotel hero Paul Rusesabagina — who sheltered and saved the lives of over 1000 tourists and hotel residents during the 1994 revolution/genocide in Rwanda and later became a US citizen — spoke in a choked voice about his father’s severe detention in the Rwandan capital Kigali since 2020 on terrorism charges.

Alexandra Forseth told The Georgetowner about the unexpected detention of her father and cousin in Venezuela in 2017 while they were on a short-term business assignment at the Citgo Oil Company. They were accused of espionage and the family only had sporadic contact with them. But there is general agreement that almost all detainees are being held as political hostages.

The inmates’ families spent 11 hours Tuesday helping Campbell hang the pictures on the wall. “Time” is the theme of the installation, the images and the art form, even the involvement of the families, Campbell said. “The images are ephemeral, but time is their message and their hope.” His words met tears in everyone’s eyes.

Of the 18 on the alley wall between the Levain bakery and the former home of the Irish pub Rí Rá, eight have been unjustly jailed and imprisoned in Venezuela, five in Iran, two in Russia, one in Syria, one in Rwanda and two in China. “We are working around the clock to get all 65 released,” said Roger Carstens, the State Department’s special envoy for hostage affairs.

“Are you optimistic?” Georgetowner asked Carstens. “Must be!” he replied. “But I think things are on the upswing right now. “This event is a new opportunity for American families of wrongfully incarcerated people around the world to work together, share strategies and experiences, raise awareness of the urgency and use all of our tools to help release them.” applause welcomed; He was allowed to visit many of the inmates.

“I am doing everything I can to actively involve Congressional representatives in this matter,” Rev. Thomas Suozzi (DN.Y..) said at the alley opening. He has a constituent who has been jailed in China on espionage charges since 2016. But he said there was growing awareness of the growing number of unlawful detentions and the urgency to respond.”

“There is no question in my mind that Griner’s incarceration was groundbreaking on this matter,” said Jonathan Franks, spokesman for the Suozzi campaign. “That raised the profile.”

On July 19, President Biden signed an executive order to improve the government’s ability to combat wrongful detention. “The problem has worsened and so far we have failed to adequately address it,” the president said. “The wrongful detention of US citizens abroad poses an unusual and exceptional threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.” Biden’s order will allow US authorities to target assets and individuals involved in a so-called diplomatic hostage-taking.

A. The image of basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia for 153 days since July 20 for drug possession, is at the forefront of the exhibit. Georgetowner photo.

Georgetowner photo.

Matthew Heath’s family and friends stand next to his image on the mural. Photo by Peggy Sands.

Roger Rusesabagina, son of Rwanda Hotel hero Paul Rusesabagina, spoke about his father, a US citizen imprisoned for terrorism. Photo by Peggy Sands.

keywordsAlexandra ForsethAlley MuralBrittney Grinerchinadiplomatic hostage crisisHotel RwandaIranIsaac CambellJonathan FranksKigaliMural ArtOlympic GoldPaul RusesBaginaPolitical ArtPresident BidenRoger CarstensRussiaRwandaRwanda HotelSyriaThomas SuozziU.S. State DepartmentVenezualaWashington MysticsWNBAIllegal DetaineesBring Our Families Home Campaign

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