I`m just back from Amsterdam where I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a beautiful event organized by Prince Claus Fund at the Hermitage Museum.
We talked about creative resistance in Syria, and tried to convey the audience a different idea of the Syrian revolution. Sadly, many people think it`s a movement driven by foreign forces, or they read it only as a civil war.
We tried very hard to explain how the protest movement was born, back in March 2011, and even before. Sometimes when the audience sees people like “Jameel” (a nickname for the young director of the puppet show Top Goon, diaries of a little dictator), so young, energetic, so similar to them, to us, they immediately change their mind. It is important to show that this uprising is made up also by people like him, that are claiming their right to live in a country ruled by civil law, where citizens have equal dignity.
Also, people are usually so surprised to see that Syrians are still producing art, cartoons, jokes, all sorts of creative material to manifest their dissent, inside the country and outside the country. And there are so many Syrians doing it, silently but firmly denouncing their opposition to the regime even when this will put their lives at risk. Cartoonist Akram Rslan, from Hama, is yet another example of those Syrians who are expressing their defiance through art and irony, and paying for the freedom of the opinions they manifest publicly.
Rslan, who works in the government-run newspaper Fedaa, has been drawing critical cartoons for a long time. On October 2nd, he was arrested at his workplace in Hama, after having dared to draw something that Asad`s backers often repeat, i.e. “Either with us, or we`ll burn the country”
Tomorrow in Oslo “All that is banned is desired”, a world conference on arts and freedom of expression will raise attention on cases like Akram`s. People that, worldwide, are paying high prices for simply having tried to imagine freedom.