Comedy in secret: the Syrian artists making a silent splash on Facebook
A Facebook page entitled “Comic4Syria”, created by a group of young Syrian writers and artists, is gaining attention in the social media networks with 11,000 likes so far.
“We are a secret group composed of several Syrian young writers and artists,” the group said on condition of anonymity.
“Our decision to remain anonymous was to preserve the safety of the members of the group as well as the sustainability of the work,” said L.F., a member of the Comic4Syria team.
Aside from the six original members of the group, L.F. says there are also occasional contributors from friends and fans that have involved themselves with the comic campaign.
The page publishes cartoons and comic strips dedicated to the Syrian revolution ever since the page was created in July.
L.F. explained to Al Arabiya the important role of using cartoons and comic strips in expressing one’s opinions and views. “Comic is a very condense art. It’s not very common in Syria. In the revolution there is always a space for new methods to express and spread the message,” adding that through their artworks, they try hard to convey messages to their audience.
“Our page is meant for a general audience but targets more precisely Syrians that support the revolution as well as sympathizers and friends all around the world. It does not aim to convince anyone with the revolution (it is not targeting Assad supporters), but rather it moves further into the next level with in the revolution. Sometimes we try to open a debate among our fans about vital questions and controversial issues to the revolution,” L.F. told Al Arabiya.
More than 30 albums can be viewed showing Arabic and translated cartoon creations and comic strips of Syrian President Bashar al-Asaad, as well as comic stories with messages of brutality and death, and other true-to life experiences that transpired during the revolution.
However, L.F. said it’s not that easy; the team sometimes encounters technical difficulties while publishing the daily cartoons.
“We try to publish one work per day. Sometimes it’s hard to maintain the stable pace due to internet difficulties or power cuts. Modest resources are a problem as well,” said L.F.
A striking album entitled “COLD” tells the real-life story of a young boy who was put away in a freezing compartment after regime forces thought he was dead. The boy wakes up and finds himself freezing. With seconds to live, he writes on the compartment door. Upon the return of two members of the forces, a soldier cries as he reads the words written in blood: “I am alive now… I will die soon… But I still want freedom. Goodbye to my mother.”
The group captioned the album as: “This is a real story that happened at the early days of the Syrian revolution. It took place in Deraa.
The team believes that cartoons and comics are “a new genre for the revolution.”
L.F. said: “It attracts the audience. They laugh, cry, feel angry by scrolling down the page while reading different stories and viewing pictures that can be at times childish, and at others tragic. Our stories might at times seem crude or too harsh for comics, but that is what makes people feel they are representative and expressive of the traumatic reality.”
One image, with a caption that says “Bashar al-Asaad tickles the dragon of sectarianism - and it swallows him whole,” shows a silhouette of a man being swallowed by a green dragon.
Another strip narrates the killing of the so-called “spray man” in Damascus, named Nour Hatem Zahra, by a member of the unofficial pro-regime Shabbiha. The comic strip shows the shooting of a man painting the walls with graffiti.
“Cake”, an album that contains four spreads of comic, tells the story of torture. The story starts with a brutal lashing of a civilian being interrogated. The satirical comic strip suggests inconsistency of reason and thought.
A comic strip, “Sniper”, shows a military officer shooting down individuals in protest but the story ended with the officer getting confused over what he had done.
An album entitled “Syrian Messengers” is based on the true story where a civilian was shot dead by a sniper for taking video footage of an ongoing protest where civilians were being shot. The civilian was shot dead at his balcony.
The group described the album with the words: “Their weapon is a camera that records the truth. That’s why they are targeted, by a regime that fears the truth. A beautiful work by a friend of the page.”
When asked if the Comic4Syria team faces threats on the creation of the Facebook page, L.F. said that the pro-Assad militias, known as Shabbiha, sometimes pay visits to the page and leave comments on their wall.
“Sometimes the Shabbiha visit the page and put insulting comments here and there. In other times, a group of people might not like an opinion expressed in a certain comic. In general they express their perspective and discuss with other fans in an acceptably decent language. No threats have been received so far,” L.F. said.
Unlike most Middle-Eastern comic strips, Comic4Syria gets inspiration from the brutality of the Syrian revolution, and the result is the bloody comic strips.
By NOELLE MANALASTAS