Room 105: ICRC on the lookout to help answer 'Where are they now?'

Active in Lebanon since 1967, ICRC is an independent humanitarian organization currently working on the missing file in Lebanon, and globally assisting and protecting people affected by violence and armed conflicts.
by Christy-Belle Geha

6 September 2019 | 17:28

Source: by Annahar

  • by Christy-Belle Geha
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 6 September 2019 | 17:28


BEIRUT: Jad and Sara vanished while on their way to pick up Jad's sister Zeina and her daughter Rania from the airport. Their son Ibrahim is seeking answers today: Where are his parents now?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Lebanon held an interactive exhibition, "Room 105," on the work it has been doing since 2012 to give the families the right to know about the fate of their missing loved ones since the Civil War.

The exhibition opened on August 30 on the International Day of the Disappeared and ran until September 6, openly to the public at Beit Beirut museum.

The visitors are actively immersed in the ICRC's work from the moment they enter the exhibition hall. An introductory video about fictitious Ibrahim Youssef, whose parents Jad and Sara vanished on June 28, 1978, when he was only six, opens the 5-room-exhibition.

The couple's story is a combination of many disappearance stories and the featured pictures of the couple are but now-living people's pictures that are portraying the story characters.

The space divided into five rooms allows the participants to follow and learn the necessary steps for data collecting that can later develop into finding out the fate of the missing people.

"The data collecting techniques we use are a bit traditional. The ICRC is funded by states that signed the Geneva conventions such as Lebanon," explained Christine Fares, responsible of the Restoring Family Links department at ICRC Beirut.

After taking a pen and a form to fill throughout the exhibition, the tour opens in a home setting: old orange couches and stereo, wall picture frames, official papers of vanished Jad and Sara, audio-taped conversations between Ibrahim and his grandparents Nayla and Ziad Youssef.

As relevant as they can be, this ante-disappearance data (ADD) gathered by the ICRC since 2012 represents the most required accurate and complete information to potential future identification of a missing loved one.

The ADD is a collection of the disappeared people's photographs on the day they went missing, their medical and dental records, familial DNA samples, their physical traits, their spatiotemporal disappearing circumstances, that is to be handed to a hoped future independent and impartial "mechanism" or "national commission" defined by the Law 105, filed by the Lebanese parliament in November 2018.

By this, the commission will not start its work from scratch, but based on more than 3000 questionnaires filed by ICRC's Beirut team since 2012, as well as over 1200 saliva samples.

In fact, the Law of the Missing and Forcibly Disappeared or Law 105 acknowledges the families rights to know about the whereabouts of their missing loved ones, which the exhibition "Room 105" was named after.

Its implementation by the Lebanese authorities requires the creation of a humanitarian national commission, a long-awaited step that will help in healing war wounds and answer tormenting questions since 1975.

The sampling procedure of saliva from families of missing persons, for instance, is displayed in the exhibition's second room, with a pedigree explaining the genetic family ties. However, the ICRC does not analyze the collected samples but only gathers data.

Different scenarios, featured in room number 3, can fit with Jad and Sara's disappearance circumstances, as rough communication means and poor investigation tools dominated back then.

"My name is Mahbouba. My father went missing during the war at the end of September 1982. We've had a difficult life without our father. Throughout the years we've been wondering about his fate. These people will never be forgotten," said Mahbouba, in one of the 3 videos of the fourth room, as part of the Chair project in partnership with Act for the Disappeared.

In this project, missing people's relatives painted on chairs how they see their missing loved ones and the chairs were featured near the person's corresponding video.

About the accompaniment to the families of the missing, Fares said: "We want to create human ties, by creating community meetings. When Muslims, Christians and Druze met in our groups, they discovered that they share the same problems even if they were previously convinced that they were different."

The identification phase is based on the analysis and comparison of tangible physical and biological evidence, and logical deductions.

Active in Lebanon since 1967, ICRC is an independent humanitarian organization currently working on the missing file in Lebanon, and globally assisting and protecting people affected by violence and armed conflicts.

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