The Syrian Civil War has caused an explosion of political graffiti, cartoons, and flyers in the country’s many diasporas. The following examples, which contain many Syrian slang words, were photographed in Berlin last month. They give an impression of increased bitterness and radicalization directed against an autocrat who, little over a year ago, was said to be unaffected by the Arab Spring.
The lede cartoon appears to be dramatizing the current battles between oppositional forces and the Syrian military in Aleppo. The question on the left rhetorically states, “Are you stupid, what made you go to Aleppo?!” Many Syrians regard Bashar al- Assad’s incursion into the city to be a major misstep.
It is worth mentioning that there is a war of narratives occurring at the moment. Although Free Syrian Army victories have been significant, it remains to be seen how much of a failure or success Assad’s offensive in Aleppo actually is. Judging by the fact that this text is written in Syrian slang, it should be viewed as an expression of hope from a terrified diaspora.
This illustration, which has a slogan that essentially means “we will have the last word,” features Assad being crushed by a boot representing the people of Syria. The prevailing international opinion is that Assad’s actions are rapidly draining his options for a peaceful transition of power, although a negotiated end to the civil war is still favoured by those who wish to avoid foreign intervention.
Still, recent rebel offensives have been impressive, and have changed press coverage of the opposition, just as the 1968 Tet Offensive shifted media perceptions of the Viet Cong’s military capabilities. There are certainly indications that Assad is terrified of precision terrorist strikes against himself and his family.
As most readers will note, the x’ed leaders have all been deposed during the Arab Spring. Muammar Gaddafi is featured with the most prominent x, along with a “congratulations Libya” on the right,” because he is the only one of these autocrats to be killed. The bloody nature of crackdowns throughout the region has caused bitterness among revolutionaries that all these men weren’t executed, particularly in Egypt with Mubarak.
Shortly after his life imprisonment was announced, a theatrical court session took place in Tahrir Square that announced a death sentence instead. Certainly, the confrontational stare of the painter in this graffiti, with a slogan which swears by the Lord (not explicitly Allah) that this will happen soon in Syria, points towards bloody vengeance.
Many Syrians, and those in solidarity with them have been extremely frustrated with the United Nations Security Council for not condemning Assad’s actions. Russia and China have both been criticized, but Russia has been particularly resented for continuing diplomatic and military assistance to the Assad regime, while blocking U.N. intervention.
Much of the frustration concerning Russia’s actions at the United Nations surrounds the fact that it did not as firmly resist U.N. action on Libya. This is mainly because Russia’s ties to the Ba’athist elite has carried over from the Soviet era, and many also believe that it is supporting Syria due to concerns of another uprising in Chechnya.
It has been similarly speculated that Russia’s energy policy is placed at risk by a new regime in Syria. Proposed natural gas pipelines would have to cross Syria in order to supply Western Europe. If completed with the blessings of the installed Syrian National Council, they would bypass Russia completely.
Commentary and Arabic translations by Bilal Ahmed. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.