Eric Grassien is staging a protest under the Broken Chair to emphasize his plight.
Handicapped and in a wheelchair, the 44 yr old camped under the monumental statue opposite the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. Smoking a pipe and looking every bit Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, he told me in French (which I hurriedly tried to decipher with my ‘Conversational French’ book) that he liked it under the chair, but had no home to go to.
The police told me he was evicted from his apartment and after a couple of days they will get social services to find him a half-way house to go to. For now, however, they left him to smoke at a giant wooden table with nothing but a candle, pamphlets and some bread and jam under the giant statue dedicated to remind UN delegates of the destruction of land mines and cluster bombs.
Created by Swiss artist Daniel Berset, Broken Chair had only three legs, the third symbolising loss of limbs from mines left by war. I was very impressed by Eric-what a perfect metaphor for his own situation, if not a little over the top-but hey, what’s a handicapped man have to do to get a home around here?
It turns out Grassien is no stranger to media.
-If any of the facts in this post are incorrect, please let me know. I do not speak French and people who spoke to me, did not speak fluent English. Thanks!
Jan 14th -Some girls approached me in the heat with a bottle of water and told me about Imam Hussein.
Every year Shia Muslims all over the world commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammad.
It is a long story so I will just say that he rejected corruption, slavery and oppression and was killed for his beliefs.
His consolation: Shia Muslims will lament his death on the 10th of Muharam (the first month of the Islamic calendar)
” It is one of the four sacred months of the year. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.
Muharram is so called because it is unlawful to fight during this month is important, the word is derived from the word haraam, meaning “sinful”.
It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.” Wiki
“Processions (Juloos) in the holy months of Muharram and Safar have traditionally taken place in public by mourners of Imam Hussein (peace be upon him) for centuries. The aim of such processions is to carry on the public relations work which was started by Lady Zainab and the holy women in Karbala, and create awareness of Imam Hussein’s sacrifice and his message.” Marching for Hussein.
The article (above) explains performing this march in the west, and the complications/additions that arise.
“”Die like Hussein? Saddam Hussein?!” That’s what one of the youth was asked by a non-Muslim while taking part in the procession.Furthermore, if a person has no idea about what a Muharram procession is, and while strolling down the footpath one is to suddenly come across a huge crowd of Muslims holding signs splattered with what appears to be blood, in addition to curiosity, it may very well just be the scariest moment of his/her life.
Instead, signs should be attractive with clear, bold, and simple colours. Additionally, dressing babies in bandanas with fake blood and making children wear fake chains isn’t too appealing. While it’s aimed at creating a visual of what happened in Karbala, perhaps we should keep our cultural context in mind and reserve these traditions to the private mourning sessions only.”
It also recommends giving blood -a modern way to save lives- and wearing black, but smiling encouragingly to the non-Muslims.