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Graffiti War on Syrian Walls

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12

Graffiti is an art that can be labelled under civil disobedience and peaceful expression. Although the Syrian Revolution has intrinsic humanitarian values; it is a revolution with artistic aspects. Painting is one of the most important methods a human uses to express one's ideas; it is the fastest way to illustrate an idea or to make people interact with this idea.

To give the graffiti its real power, let's remember the spark that lit the Syrian revolt flame. A famous Graffiti in Daraa in 2011 led to the arrests of at least 15 children for painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of a school. And so, the local governor decided to come down hard. The punishment stunned the town, and suddenly, Syria got its first strong taste of rebellion in the Arab Spring.

Graffiti in Syria, “Your turn has come, doctor”, referring to President (and ophthalmologist) Bashar Al-Assad. Source: EA WorldView.

Graffiti has became another field of the conflict, where both government and peaceful activists found their freedom of expression. According to Al-akhbar:

Syrian authorities and graffiti dissidents are playing cat and mouse on the country’s walls. Syrian protesters spray anti-regime slogans, while authorities rush to cover them up and arrest the perpetrators, including one mysterious dissident dubbed Spray Man. When buying spray paint in Syria, remember to take your ID with you. Vendors refuse to sell the paint unless buyers provide personal papers and an ‘affidavit’ explaining the reasons behind the purchase.

Graffiti also finds a life on the Internet. For instance, Syrian activists created a group called “اسبوع غرافيتي الحريـّة سوريا - Freedom Graffiti Week“.

Graffiti: Walls of the People

Qaph, a blog reading politics, books and civil society events, wrote:

Graffiti explodes in periods of political and social changes and becomes itself a form of public power to resist authoritarian power. An artist, or group of artists, chooses a crowded street to convey the message in words or picture or both, that most of the times contain bitter sarcasm. The power of graffiti as a mean of free expression is increasingly alarming for many governments and ruling Systems. Repressive measures are taken to “shut-up” the voice of the streets; the best example of such reactions is that of UK with the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and UK MPs signing a charter saying “Graffiti is not art, it’s crime.”

Bashar Stencil by El Teneen. Next to it, reads ‘The People Want the Downfall of the Regime’ words made famous. Seen on July 25th, 2011. Source: Blog suzeeinthecity

In March 2011, Syrians went to the streets to express their rage, which filled the streets of Syria's cities with thousands of protesters chanting for freedom. Meanwhile, others found their voice on walls. You can spread your message in different ways. On the streets, you can shout, dance, sing; while on the walls you can paint, write, and personalize characters. Messages between pro and anti Assad factions were expressed, corrected, and painted over many times in a way showing that both sides are sharing the same space.

Graffiti by the FSA in Damascus, Syria: “We are sorry for the inconvenience…we die for you”. Source: The revolting Syrian Blog

Pro & Anti Syrian Revolution Graffiti

Happy Arab news service blog reported that graffiti was seen at an anti-Assad insurance agent's business in the United States. A day later, a pro-Assad journalist posted a photo on Facebook of pro-revolution graffiti on a Garden Grove travel agency owned by a Syrian-American who expressed support to the current regime.

Orange County's Syrian-Americans are divided over the revolution in Syria. We've seen protests in front of Syria's consulate in Newport Beach, some against the regime and others to support it. Recently, the divide in Southern California has escalated.

There is a saying in Syria goes: “الحيطان دفاتر المجانين” which means “Wall are the sheets of the insane people”; however, nowadays Syrian people turn Syria's walls into the free expression exchange field!

I'll leave you with some painted walls in several cities in Syria.

Be with the revolution. Source: 29 Arabic Letters Blog

Assad Graffiti. Translated: “(Either submit to) Assad or We Burn The Country”. Source: The revolting Syrian Blog

Graffiti in Damascus, Syria bearing the logo of the FSA (the Free Syrian Army) with the words “we are coming” written underneath the logo. The writing on the wall above the logo reads: “It’s getting closer” (i.e. Bashar, your days are numbered). Source: put a spell on you on Tumblr.

Revolutionary terms Graffiti on the walls of the faculty of Science in Aleppo, correcting the phrases written by Assad thugs. Source: Facebook page of FREEDOM GRAFFiTi WEEK Syria

A graffiti artists tags a wall with the phrase “Down with Bashar”, during the Syrian Uprising, March 2011. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Assad thugs graffiti in Hama: “Either Assad To Rule Syria or No One” . Source: FreedomHouse on Flickr

Assad thugs graffiti: Only Bashar – We are death men. Source: FreedomHouse on Flickr

Graffiti against Bashar Assad #Syria. Source: Sabry Khaled on Flickr

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12

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