Sunday, April 15, 2012

Get with the program, Danubiana!

While there are many things about Slovakia that I love, there are sometimes things I stumble across that make me slap my forehead and cringe with disbelief.

So, I was checking out the website for the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, a modern art gallery located southeast of Bratislava, on a tiny peninsula in the Danube, by the village of Cunovo. While perusing the website, I noticed a page called "Visits," and clicked on it to find blurbs about four internationally known people who'd visited the place over the last few years. My jaw dropped when I noticed that one of the four visitors proudly displayed was none other than Asma al-Assad, the loving and supportive wife of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president whose regime is responsible for killing thousands of protesters, and imprisoning (and likely torturing) many others over the past year.

The al-Assad blurb, from 2009, simply states that she digs the museum's collection and would like for it to be displayed at an exhibition in Damascus someday. To be fair, back in 2009, two years before the mass protests and the bloody oppression, nobody really knew what the al-Assad regime was capable of, so her visit back then seemed relatively benign.

But now, the EU has deemed her bad (and complicit) enough to have frozen her assets and placed a travel ban on her (and her relatives as well). (This occurred after it was revealed that Ms. al-Assad was continuing to lead her lavish and decadent lifestyle as if nothing was happening, and voicing continued support for her husband). Need I remind the Danubiana that Slovakia is a member of the EU?

I don't know if this is a case of ignorance or apathy, but either way, it looks bad, and reflects kind of poorly on Slovakia. I can't help but think that most museums in other EU capitals wouldn't hesitate to remove her page from their websites, at least for the sake of the thousands of people who have been killed and imprisoned. I mean, this goes far beyond some local or national political issue. If a politically polarizing local figure visited the museum and had his/her little blurb on the website, that could open its own can of worms, but is ultimately a different story. However, Asma al-Assad is one of the faces of a regime that has been internationally condemned for doing some unspeakably terrible things to many innocent people. And like I mentioned, the EU already recognizes this, so in my view, keeping her page up is in poor taste.

Maybe I'm doing what Slovaks call making an elephant out of a flea? Well, Syria has been at the forefront of international news for over a year now, so I really don't think so. Therefore, I have a simple request: Danubiana - please get a clue!

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