Orwa Nyrabia, an independent documentary filmmaker and co-founder of the Damascus-based international documentary festival ‘DOX BOX’, was arrested by the Syrian military as part of a crackdown on pro-democracy artists and intellectuals.
Orwa Nyrabia disappeared on 23 August 2012 before boarding an airplane to Cairo. His wife, Diana El-Jeiroudi, was informed that he never boarded his flight. While the reasons for his arrest and his whereabouts remained unknown, the news of the abduction quickly spread among filmmakers around the world.
Nyrabia runs the DOX BOX festival, which brings international documentaries to Syria. The festival was essentially cancelled this spring, as organisers decided to send the films to other festivals around the world, in light of the violence that by then had taken hold in Syria.
Support from filmmakers and actors
Martin Scorsese issued a statement calling for his release, and that was followed by a campaign by more than a hundred international filmmakers to call attention to Nyrabia’s detention. Among those participating were celebreties such as Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. Also, the Toronto International Film Festival published a letter of support, noting that “Nyrabia belongs to the emerging generation of Syrian filmmakers passionate about world cinema and passionate about freedom.”
More than two weeks after he disappeared at the airport, actor Khalid Abdalla tweeted: “Orwa is out. Confirmed. Spoke to him. He sounds beautiful, as always.”
The charges remained obscure. Allegedly, a civilian court in Damascus had reviewed Nyrabia’s case and acquitted him. Others in similar circumstances have been accused of weakening the national morale or spreading false accusations.
News of his release was welcomed by attendees at the Toronto festival. And it came days after the death of Syrian filmmaker Tamer al-Awam, who died in Aleppo, “where he was filming the bombardment of civilian neighborhoods,” as The New York Times reported.
NPR – 12 September 2012:
Syrian Documentary Producer Orwa Nyrabia Is Freed; Was Arrested Two Weeks Ago