"Slaughter of the Prisoners, Afghanistan"
The exhibit was created by Sam and Katah in Montréal, using texts from the news service and images Sam drew which attempted to make a representation of each of the victims of the slaughter, of prisoners who surrendered to the Northern Alliance forces at Kunduz late in November, and were then murdered at the Quali-e- Jhangi Fortress, near Mazar-e-Sharif. Each of the twenty one frames is filled with feet or noses, hands or eyes, which eventually total in the four hundreds. The posters are 11x17 inches, on paper, and there are 21 of them in the series.
The series is dedicated to the memory of Hajid Murad who is a character from the short story of the same title written by Leo Tolstoy at the end of the 19th century, describing the war between the Russians and the Chechens.
Though we were reading the Geneva Convention, at the time of the massacre, we did not include it because the way we were approaching the event had certain parameters and we stayed within them. I do attach the very relevant, article four, below.
We were immediately appalled and transfixed by the massacre, we watched the surrender at Kunduz, maybe we even realized that Rashid Dostum, commander of the northern alliance forces, had begun to massacre the surrendering Taliban before the battle of Kunduz was over, before the surrender was completed. The information came to us through MSN mostly with a little bit of newspaper coverage added. The news was so intensely censored and the press was so slow the MSN seemed more immediate. We were not receiving images on MSN ...anyway I was not actually using the MSN images..
Of course one feels horrible watching human beings being massacred day after day. Knowing that the bombers drop their high explosive loads and then the marksmen pick off, shattering them with lethal high powered leaden projectiles, any men the bombs drive from their shelter. Later they will flood the hostages dens with diesel fuel and burn them out, shooting them as they emerge. Imagine these men, defeated at Kunduz, a large number of them young recruits, cornered, driven to the wall, virtually unarmed, starving, wounded, hopeless and despairing. Faced with the realization that their captors will, "take no prisoners", that they will all be executed. The press documented their struggle, against their inevitable execution, by the massive forces that were holding them hostage in their last redoubt. Seven days and nights in this basement and then the captors flood the space with diesel fuel and ignite it. When the starved and filthy hostages make their way to the doors and windows forced by the smoke and flames, the snipers crush any frail hopes in these bedraggled human bodies, piercing their vital organs, crushing their bones, tearing their flesh and bringing them one by one to their deaths. One by one to their deaths, over ten days, 5, 6, 700, individuals were murdered more or less one at a time. Reading the AP report of fifty bodies found sprawled in a field, "arms bound behind them", each killed in what the press calls, "execution style". One must hope that the powerful army holding this defeated and surrendered group of very young men in this ultimate mortal trap, might take pity on them, might, at the very least, grant their victims, those human rights they are guaranteed under the Geneva Convention, since all the forces participating in this massacre are states which have ratified the convention?
We were in Montreal. We felt there was nothing we could do. I wanted to acknowledge each of the dead. They were dying very fast. I thought, at least I could make a mark, a mark representing a human body, to acknowledge each of the victims. At first it was clearly stated that there were 800...Later, once the massacre had started this info became less clear..When I heard distinct groups defined, like the fifty, I tried to represent them. By the time I had made 400 images, four hundred and some, they were all dead, maybe eighty survived. The news stopped coming. The press moved on to the bombing of Tora Bora..
Now we took the material we had printed out over the ten days of the massacre...and edited it. All of the texts we used in the poster series are from the news mediums. .Some of the texts had inspired the images, some, we now found, related to the images. Katah began to assemble the images and the texts on the computer and to manipulate and format them.
There were some last little bits of news, how the survivors were put in shipping containers and parked out in the dessert to die, for example...
We took our computer generated collages to the copy shop and printed them up in the format you see here, and began to post them around Montreal with Lina. Actually the first show was posted in Montpelier, Vermont on Jan 9.
That is the whole story...We wished we could have done more....
Sam and Katah ..... from San Christobal de las Casas..March 21...2002
Slaughter of the Prisoners
a series of posters generated in November and December 2001
graphics by Sam Kerson, montage by Katah
The Geneva Convention 1949,
Signed by The United States, Britain and Afghanistan
This is article four...
"In the case of armed conflict not of an international character
occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of
executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
note that for this page, you should scroll horizontal -- there are 21 poster images, an Artist statement and a reference to the Article 4 of the Geneva Convention
|Katah and Lina postering on St-Laurent street in Montreal, at dawn, December 2001|
note that for this page, you should scroll horizontal --
there are 21 poster images, an Artist statement and a reference to the Article 4 of the Geneva Convention