TRRC Billboard – Victims and Resisters #NeverAgainGambia

TRRC Billboard – Gambia victims, and resisters. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange

‘The TRRC is not a court of law. It cannot prosecute or give amnesty. It can only recommend for prosecution or the granting of amnesty’

Billboard – Gambia Victims, and Resisters. Through these portraits and collected testimonies, we share the plight of the victims of the former regime of Yahya Jammeh. Huge respect and thanks to the British High Commission Banjul, the Truth Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), and UNDPGambia, for their support.

‘Gambia – victims, and Resisters’

See more of this on-going, multi-media, body of work at floriophoto.com. A collaboration between Jason Florio &  Helen Jones-Florio

Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia – Awa (with her daughter, and mother-in-law) holds her phone with one of the few photographs that she has of her late husband, Omar Barrow, who was a journalist, and International Community Red Cross volunteer. Omar was shot by a uniformed member of Gambia’s security forces during student protests, April 2000, as he was trying to help injured students at the Red Cross Headquarters. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange


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The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

TRRC billboard, depicting portraits from ‘Gambia – victims. and resisters’ Image ©Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

The tiny West African republic, The Gambia, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. However, most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His personal hit squad and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order. 

Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of a man wearing a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio
A man wears a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

In October 2018 The Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) launched in The Gambia – a televised commission investigating the human rights violations under the 22-year dictatorial rule of President Yahya Jammeh. The TRRC, suspended over the past couple of months due to COVID19, will resume today, Monday 8th June 2020, hearing testimonies from the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s rule, along with those of the alleged perpetrators. It is a long, and extremely painful process for many, to finally have their voices heard, but also to see and hear the voices of those who are implicated in meting out shocking tortures, killings, and human rights abuses, and about what happened to their loved ones. 

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

#Portraits4PostiveChange

For over three years, we have been collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the TRRC; and have created permanent and mobile exhibitions of the portraits and testimonies. The exhibitions have now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country, to bring the stories of victims to the people, to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgling democracy – in hopes of opening eyes and winning hearts and minds. And, we will continue making the portraits and filming testimonies once flights to Gambia resume after the lockdown.

  • Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Bintu Tunkara, daughter of murdered Gambian Lamin Tunkara, holding the only photo she has of him on her mothers cell phone ©Jason Florio
  • Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Ya Mammie Ceesay whose son was murdered by the former regime of Yahya Jammeh ©Jason Florio
  • Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia, West Africa - the doorway to Mr. Chune's home. His 14 year old son was shot dead by Gambia security forces April 10th, 2000 © Helen Jones-Florio
  • Bintu was detained and raped by 3 masked security officers - Gambia victims and resisters portraits ©Jason Florio
  • Gambia Victims and Resisters of a Regime – ©Jason Florio, the Gambia

#StoriesBehindDoors

Current Location: June 2020 – easing lockdown in the UK

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Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.
Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.

#NeverAgainGambia – In Remembrance of Deyda Hydara, June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004

Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of a man wearing a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio
A young Gambian journalist wears a t-shirt of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004). Image ©Jason Florio

#NeverAgainGambia – Remembering Deyda Hydara, June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004, The Gambia. Hydara was gunned down by assailants, whilst in his car, as he was returning from work, in 2004. He was a journalist and co-founder of The Point newspaper and an advocate of press freedom. Hydara was also a fierce critic of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who was openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media.

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’
#Portraits4PositiveChange

Baba Hydara with the tattoo of his murdered father, Gambia newspaper editor, and journalist, Deyda Hydara, on his arm © Jason Florio
Baba Hydara with the tattoo of his murdered father, Gambian newspaper editor, and journalist, Deyda Hydara, on his arm © Jason Florio

#NeverAgainGambia

July 22nd, 2019 – At Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on July 22, army officer Lieutenant Malick Jatta named former President Yahya Jammeh as the mastermind behind the murder of prominent editor Deyda Hydara on December 16 , 2004. He said Jammeh had given the direct order to assassinate Hydara, an outspoken critic who was the managing editor and co-owner of independent newspaper The Point. The operation by Jammeh’s infamous hit squad, known as the Junglers, was dubbed “Magic Pen,” Jatta told the commission. CPJ – By Angela Quintal/CPJ Africa Program Coordinator, The Committee to Protect Journalists

#NeverAgainGambia - banner of portraits of victims and resisters, exhibited at the British High Commission, in The Gambia. Portraits ©Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio
#NeverAgain Gambia – a banner of portraits from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’, series by Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio, exhibited at the British High Commission, in The Gambia, Image ©Helen Jones-Florio

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The Gambia: Portraits of survivors of Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ treatment ©Jason Florio

Fatou Jatta survivour of President Yahya Jammeh's HIV/AIDS 'cure' program - portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia
Fatou Jatta – survivor of Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ program, The Gambia – portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange

“From the time I started the concoction, I got weaker and weaker, my condition got worse. After July, I went to the MRC – which had been my treatment centre – and tested. My CD4 count had dropped to 80 – a threat to me, anything can happen” Fatou Jatta, survivor Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ program and Member of the Santa Yalla Support Society

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters

In 2007, then President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, announced that he could cure HIV/AIDS with his secret herbal concoction. Jammeh ‘invited’ (under his harsh dictatorship, many survivors say that they were coerced) Gambians living with HIV and AIDS into his Presidential Alternative Treatment Programme. He also ordered them to stop taking antiretroviral drugs, which in some cases proved fatal – as in the case of Lamin Moko Ceesay’s (pictured below) wife who died as a result of stopping her antiretroviral drugs on the orders of Jammeh, when she took part in his treatment program.

Also, without the consent of the patients, Jammeh’s administration of his herbal ‘cure’ was often televised to the nation.

Lamin Ceesay - took part in Yahya Jammeh AIDS/HIV herbal 'cure' trials, the Gambia - portrait ©Jason Florio
Lamin Moko Ceesay – took part in Yahya Jammeh AIDS/HIV herbal ‘cure’ trials, the Gambia – portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2019: AIDSFREEWOLD: The survivors filed complaints with The Gambia Medical and Dental Council against Dr. Tamsir Mbowe and Dr. Malick Njie, both of whom served at different points as Jammeh’s Minister of Health. Fatou Jatta, Ousman Sowe, and Lamin “Moko” Ceesay signed the complaint against Dr. Mbowe; Fatou Jatta filed the complaint against Dr. Njie. (Read the letters here.) The survivors are supported in their actions by AIDS-Free World, the Gambia-based Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), and Combeh Gaye of the Gambian law firm Antouman A.B. Gaye & Co.

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters

Ousman Sowe, survivour of President Yahya Jammeh's HIV/AIDS 'cure' program - portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia
‘Musa’, survivor of President Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ program –
portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia

#Portraits4PositiveChange

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ is a multi-media work-in-progress series – portraits and filmed testimonies by Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio. To date, the portraits have been exhibited at The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and at the British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, and at the Truth, Reconciliation, Reparations Commission (TRRC). See a selection of the portraits on Jason Florio’s website floriophoto.com

Portraits for Positive Change - at the TRRC Gambia ©Jason Florio
‘Portraits for Positive Change’ at the TRRC – donated by the British High Commission, The Gambia ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.
Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.

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