Cloth Scraps

Syria Prisoner Project

For most of us, disappearing into an underground Syrian prison managed by the brother of Bashar al-Assad is not a worry that struggles daily to compete with saturated fats, insurance premiums, in-laws, and investments. And we probably don’t lose much sleep wondering what we would do should we find ourselves in such straits.

Mansour Omari, though he lived in Syria, did not give a great deal of thought to this either. But when he, and a few cell mates, found themselves thus incarcerated, they worried not so much that they would live or die, but rather that their families would never know what became of them…never know the truth.

At the conservation facilities of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are 5 tattered scraps of cloth, on which are written in faded blood and rust the names of Mansour and a few dozen of his fellow prisoners. They wrote the names with a sharpened chicken bone, sewed the scraps into the cuffs and collar of a shirt, hung the shirt on a cell wall, and agreed that if any of them ever got out alive, the first one out would wear the shirt.

Mansour wore the shirt.

Many of you know that for the last 10 years, it has been my privilege to use the multispectral imaging system that we developed over this period to recover many lost voices. From our images, entire manuscripts have been recovered; time-silenced voices from the past given a second chance to tell their stories.

I am writing this on a flight to Washington DC. We will point our multispectral camera at the names on these scraps. We will do our part to ensure that the faded names on these scraps will not vanish; that their owners will not be forgotten.

I am writing for 2 reasons:

  1. I thought this small act of heroic humanity on the part a few unassuming prisoners was worth sharing.
  2. To give you an opportunity to participate in our effort. We agreed to image the scraps on short notice, without time to raise funding for the project. If you, or others you know, are able to help, you can point your browser to and click on the “Donate” button. Mention your donation is for “The Lazarus Project”. Donations are tax deductible. (EMEL is the antithesis of overhead bloat. A better charity you will not find.)

PS: You can learn more about Mansour and the prisoners here.