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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Syrian displaced by Daesh paints experiences with makeshift materials

AFP , Wednesday 19 Jul 2017
Syrian farmer Faysal, who fled his home northeast of Raqa following an offensive to capture the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters, shows his paintings at the Ain Issa camp in northern Syria on July 16, 2017. (Photo: AFP)
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Views: 2216

Under the Islamic State group's rule, Syrian farmer Faysal was forced to hide his sketches and paintings, but displaced by fighting he has finally been able to resume his beloved hobby.

He sought refuge with his family at the Ain Issa camp in northern Syria three months ago, fleeing the battle for jihadist stronghold Raqa, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) away.

The 47-year-old struggled to find art materials in the desolate camp so he meticulously made his own, tying threads pulled from a pillow case to a piece of wood to fashion a paintbrush.

He even gathered cigarette butts to use as charcoal for sketches depicting everything from portraits of his favourite singers to the daily life of the displaced.

"I've been drawing for 15 years and I would keep all the pictures for myself," he told AFP.

"I'd forgo other things so I could buy paintbrushes and oil paints."

"When the Daeshis came in, I wouldn't dare draw," he said, using an Arabic term for IS members.

"I hid all my pieces on top of the closet and covered them up with a ton of other things. They considered drawing to be haram (religiously forbidden)."

Faysal is among tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by fighting since a US-backed offensive to capture Raqa began last year.

He fled his home northeast of Raqa city around three months ago with his wife Sinaa and seven of their eight children.

The slender, tanned farmer did not want to give his real name or the location of his village because he was forced to leave behind a son, imprisoned three years ago by IS.

He was reluctant to share much about the arrest, saying only that his son was accused of working for the Syrian government and is being held along with Faysal's nephew.

Life at the camp is hard, with little shelter from the relentless sun.

Between pulling out sketches from his portfolio, Faysal tried to soothe his youngest daughter, who was suffering intense tooth pain that has gone untreated at the camp.

Like most of the displaced, Faysal arrived in Ain Issa with little, and to resume his artwork he initially used whatever he found around him.

One day, a camp worker saw his pieces and brought him paper and coloured pencils, requesting a portrait to memorialise his son, a Kurdish fighter.

The resulting artwork on a huge white posterboard shows a young man in a military-style uniform with the yellow badge of the Kurdish People's Protection Units.

Faysal has other portraits, including some of the region's most famous Middle Eastern divas, like Lebanese singer Fairuz and Egyptian Umm Kulthum.

"This is Warda al-Jazairia, I like to listen to her," he says, gesturing to his rendition of the famed Algerian singer in her youth.

Other pieces depict what has become his daily life, including a coloured sketch of a man atop a stack of the thin sponge mattresses common at displacement camps in the region.

"During the month of Ramadan, they did not give us as much food as we expected. No one helped us," Faysal said, gesturing at the sketch.

"We had nothing in the camps beside sponge mattresses."

Another pencil sketch depicts a family in front of a tent, an old man leaning on a cane, and other people sitting on the ground.

"I was looking out from my tent and I saw them, so I drew them," Faysal explained.

But the most painful of Faysal's pieces depict life under IS, and particularly the experiences he fears his son may be enduring.

He holds up a sketch of two young men in jail -- one of them leaning his head back on the concrete wall behind him, and the other with his head between his knees.

"I imagine this is my son's situation in jail," he said.

The image caused tears to stream down Sinaa's face.

"I love all his drawings," she said.

"But the dearest to my heart is the one of my son."

Inside his tent, Faysal put the finishing touches to a pencil rendition of a gruesome scene he witnessed in Raqa city while he waited for a doctor's appointment.

He recalled seeing IS jihadists drag a handcuffed and blindfolded man from a car, stifling the detainee's screams with a piece of cloth.

When Faysal entered his doctor's office, he heard four gunshots.

His pencil drawing shows a blindfolded young man, his head thrown back.

"This is my pain. Everything that happened to us, not just to my son and nephew."

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