In 2012, I was a freshman at Arizona State University in the journalism school where we were required to read The New York Times everyday. I remember passing mentions of Syria and things that were happening there — I must admit, I didn’t really pay attention to those stories as much as I should have.
Now, I have made an attempt to educate myself on the crisis unfolding there. Here’s what I know: The Syrian government has been under the control of the Assad family for several years and in 2000, Bashar al-Assad took control and the country has been under a military dictatorship since. This governmental regime took a large toll on Syrian citizens, giving them no political freedom (no free speech) and severely damaging the economy by ushering in a larger class gap and extremely high unemployment rates.
Then, in 2011, 15-year-old Bashir Abazid and his friends began tagging the city of Daraa with revolutionary slogans in reference to Bashar. They were seized by Syrian security forces who tortured them for more than a month. This treatment ignited a fire across the country and sparked the revolutionary uprising that soon turned into a civil war. For the past six years, revolutionaries and the Syrian government have been fighting, with the latter using bombings and chemical weapons that result in massive deaths to innocent men, women and children across the country.
I don’t know how your heart cannot bleed for the plight of these people who are caught in the middle of such a dangerous and corrupted fight. Especially the children.
As a result, several Syrain artists are putting their brushes and digital tools to work to not only expose the realities of the war, but also to call out those in power for their inaction — for letting people die.
Here are a few artists and their passionate work as they continue to fight for Syria.
Abdalla Omari is a Syrian painter and film maker who was born in Damascus but has found refuge in Brussels. He received degrees in English literature and visual arts before beginning his career as a full-time artist in 2012. On his website, his work is described as “fraught with emotion” as they “tackle complex psychological states, yet retain a profound beauty through their painterly application and realistic portrayal.” Omari is most well-known for two projects, the first being “The Vulnerability Series,” which depicts persons of power being demoted and shown in a vulnerable strength, sans power. Works in the series include depictions of President Barack Obama, Bashar al-Assad and many other leaders who continue to delay life-saving actions that could help those trapped in Syria.
His other project, and in my opinion his most moving, is the Charms of War Project. Its goal is to show the war’s destructive impact on children, while also generating support for Syria and its people, according to Omari’s website. The paintings in the project are a combination of portraits of children lost due to wartime violence, and images of refugee children struggling to survive the after effects of their escape. The paintings are haunting and form a pit of longing despair in my stomach — how can you look at these children and not grieve for them? I think it is safe to say that the Charms of War Project reaches its desired effect, which in and of itself is a testament to Omari’s talent and general humanity. You can see more of Omari’s work on his website here.
Fares Cachoux is an artist and graphic designer originally from Homs, known in the beginning as the center of the Syrian revolution.Now, Cachoux resides in Paris, but he continues to create his bright, foreboding and threatening posters designed to educate the world about the Syrian government’s treatment of it’s own people. His posters feature single bright colors as the backdrop for faceless silhouettes that are often varied in size to denote power and threat. I am actually physically scared looking at them. Many show the moment before the atrocity — like watching a serial killer sneak up on his unsuspecting victim and knowing the victim will die.
Some of Cachoux’s posters illustrate the hopefulness in the revolution. “The People” illustrates the feeling of the first uprising against Bashar, when anything seems possible. But as one continues to look through the posters, they become increasingly violent and hopeless, illustrating children lost to massacres, Bashar’s relationship with Russia and ISIS, and those who died from random violence and from speaking out. In a wonderful Buzzfeed article, Cachoux is quoted saying that although the bombings and violence are the only sound now, his posters will endure to tell the story of what happened to the people of Syria, and keep them alive, if only in memory. And I suppose that is all the people can hope for. You can see more of Cachoux’s work in the article above or on his Behance website here.
I know it is difficult for us, so removed from such violence and suffering, to even think of empathizing with the Syrian people. But one of the first steps in helping them is to educate yourselves and those around you. Syrian Deeply is a news project created by News Deeply, which seeks to fully report the issues within the war-ravaged country. Their Background section provides a good overview of how the civil war came to be and exactly why no change is happening. I strongly urge you to visit their website and learn more about the war so that we can begin to garner support and change for Syria.
If you are also looking for more Syrian artists using their craft to promote awareness and change, read their article, “The Art of Uprising Turned War in Syria” here.
What do you know about the Syrian civil war? How can these artists affect tangible change for their home country? What is art’s place during war and in government protests? How can the world help Syria? Let’s talk.