Damian: portrait of an ISIS recruit, and a mother’s child

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Damian Clairmont

Damian Clairmont,” for the Blanket Project, an ongoing online exhibition. Kim Vanderheiden, pencil and ink, 2016.

Damian grew up in Calgary, Canada. After a period of severe depression as a teen that led to a suicide attempt after his 17th birthday, he converted to Islam. As his outlook became more positive, and he began to heal and socialize again, his family supported his new faith. After Damian moved away from home, he joined a new mosque, was approached by an Islamic State recruiter, began seeking extreme content online, and became radicalized, unbeknownst to his family. He went to Egypt, ostensibly to study Arabic. Shortly after, the Canadian government reported to his mother that he was suspected of being in Syria fighting with ISIS. He died at age 22, near Aleppo, executed by the Free Syrian Army.

His mother, Christianne Boudreau shares her son’s story with the public, working to educate families to be more aware of the process of radicalization and how to fight it. She began the Mothers for Life Network, which offers a support network for families who have lost loved ones to extremism. She also recommends extremedialogue.org for educational resources to counter extremist messages.

Here is a more detailed account of Christianne’s and Damian’s story (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/20/christianne-boudreau-son-isis_n_6911110.html ) Many other articles can be found online as well

This image of Damian was drawn from a home video provided by his family.

The Blanket Project is based on the swaddling blanket that many local children receive from hospitals as newborns. There are some people we feel great compassion for but don’t know how to help. There are some who require a lifetime of care, but we may forget about them in the busy day to day of our own lives. There are some for whom we may not feel inclined towards compassion because what they’ve done upsets us. There are some who are lost, and we don’t know how to reach them. There are some who have faced unimaginable pain, perhaps with great courage or perhaps not. In this body of work, I hope to share the holding of each person in heart and mind as we would our own child.

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