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UMAM Documentation and Research is a Lebanese private archive organisation founded in 2004 and working on raising awareness of civil violence and war memories in Lebanon as a platform for debate and a means to break cycles of blame and conflict.
It argues that the increasing number of voices calling for truth-seeking in Lebanon, the ongoing cycles of blame and counter blame within political discourse, and the continuous threat of renewed political violence indicate that the strategy of ‘closing the files’ cited by political leaders has clearly failed. Lebanon urgently needs to begin the tasks of truth-seeking and public truthtelling, as well as transitional justice.
UMAM D&R runs a variety of cultural events including film screenings, installations, roundtables, exhibitions and public lectures, as well as participating in the production of films. These provide a unique Lebanese space for cultural events through the Hangar, a large converted warehouse in South Beirut. Through this space, UMAM D&R aims to foster exchange with international artists and to provide a platform upon which Lebanese artists can engage with each other and the public. UMAM D&R enables exchange of memories of conflict and violence both within Lebanon and with other post-conflict societies. From this, it is the hope that Lebanon will formulate plans and strategies to deal with its past. And the post-conflict societies include Algeria and some exhibitions were organized on its modern history in turmoil, as well as events about Iraq and Bosnia.
UMAM D&R, part of the Arab Network for Human Rights Films, aims to preserve memories through the collection and digitalisation of materials from Lebanon’s history. It strives to revive memories of Lebanon by accepting public contributions to the archive and to provide a platform for public access to these memories of civil violence and war. The archive, Memory at Work, is a tool which can be used to investigate a whole range of episodes of violence that took place during the war, and undo the false divisions that have developed in Lebanese society. It also aims to reclaim the real meaning of the terms truth and justice, as well as challenge impunity, find information for victims and families of the disappeared, and pass on to future generations the lessons learnt during the war in order to try and prevent the same mistakes from re-occuring.
Truth & Memory
This project, launched in April 2008, combines public events and archiving in a coordinated attempt to stimulate public debate about the legacy of the civil war and possible strategies to address it, including the fate of detainees in Syrian prisons. UMAM book “Missing” is a collection of photos and biographical details of hundreds of those whose fates remain unkown.
By drawing on international experiences of truthtelling and reconciliation, UMAM D&R introduces the concepts into the Lebanese context. It is prompting both a targeted audience of decision makers (at the workshops) and a wider public audience (at film screenings and lectures) to assess Lebanon’s own progress to date and to make concrete recommendations for an appropriate way in which Lebanon can undertake its own truth-telling and/or reconciliation process.
Since there are numerous local NGOs working on issues directly or indirectly related to memory, confronting the past, and justice and accountability, UMAM D&R thinks that a project aimed at bringing together these diverse actors in order to share ideas, learn new skills and build networks is greatly needed. UMAM D&R believes it is the responsibility of NGOs and involved individuals to confront the past and press for answers, including its own work on the 17000 who disappeared during the civil war.
UMAM D&R is also engaged in a reginal documentating network for human rights violations.
The Syrian Crisis
Tadmor (Palmyra) is a documentary produced by UMAM production house in 2016. It tells the stories of former Lebanese detainees who decided to break their long-held silence about the horrific years they spent imprisoned in Tadmor notorious prison. To reclaim and overcome this dark chapter in their lives, they rebuild Tadmor in an abandoned school near Beirut. By playing the role of both "victim" and "victimizer," they will relive their survival.
UMAM D&R is collaborating with Syrian activists in a project entitled "Memory at Work Syria" to preserve the Syrian memory and heritage. And it also organizes series of events in Palestinian camps to tell refugees they are welcome in Lebanon.
Last updated: November 2017