Middle East

Artists use dark humor to mark Christmas

BEIRUT: Syrian artists turned to dark humor to depict the brutal war devastating their country as Wednesday they marked the third Christmas since the deadly conflict erupted.

Their works posted on the Internet reflect the tragedy that has struck Syria, where violence has reportedly killed more than 126,000 people and forced millions to flee.

One of the most poignant illustrations by graphic designer Sedki al-Imam shows Santa riding his sleigh through a starry, blue sky, but instead of reindeer, it is being pulled by warplanes.

And rather than shower the earth with gifts, Imam’s Santa drops TNT-packed barrel bombs over Syria.

The drawing comes as more than 400 people, including 117 children, have been killed in a 10-day air offensive by Syria’s regime that saw the dropping of barrel bombs on rebel-held areas of Aleppo – Imam’s hometown.

Another piece by graphic designer Wissam al-Jazairi shows a brightly colored Santa slumped in front of rows of tombstones at a snow-filled cemetery.

Santa appears sad because he cannot visit children to give them Christmas gifts and a caption below the drawing reads poignantly: “Santa Claus and the children of Syria.”

In another illustration signed A. Wardeh, towers of black smoke rise in the shape of a large Christmas tree above crowds gathered in a destroyed city.

Above the clouds is a little star, and nearby a tiny warplane.

A bleak message reads: “Bashar Assad wishes you a merry Christmas!”

But not all was gloom and doom, and cartoonist Juan Zero found a simple way to illustrate hope in dark times.

He sketched and shared bright yellow smiley faces against the background of a black Christmas tree.

Other Syrians shared online music, including a new version of the popular Jingle Bells reworked to the tune of: “Christmas eve, Christmas eve, people fear the sound of bullets from afar.”

But the song soon becomes a revolution hymn: “Freedom is right behind the door, we will have a tree in the house, planted by the revolutionaries ... We want freedom and a new regime.”

The creator of the song, an activist from Hama named Anas Mushmush who went by Mowgli, died in detention.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2013, on page 8.




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