Syrian artists’ lethal weapon against regime: Satire
As if to verify the artists’ effectiveness at psychological warfare, the regime in Damascus has responded with horrific brutality. Regime agents broke the hands of an opposition political cartoonist, mutilated and murdered a singer, and cut out the vocal chords of a poet who recited poetry that offended the government.
Syrian artists become more daring
Instead of backing down, Syrian artists are ratcheting up their satirical assault on their tormenters.
Many of the authors don’t need the internet – they spread their message through songs, cartoons and poetry. And they have moved from their traditional skirting of boundaries to becoming literal iconoclasts – smashing regime personalities and symbolism head-on.
Others use the internet to reach audiences both in Syria and around the world. A group of ten artists, calling themselves Masasit Mati, created easy-to-smuggle finger puppets of regime leaders to star in a video lampoon called Top Goon. The very simple – and very funny – puppet show rips down the regime’s fragile cult of personality around Bashar “Beeshu” al-Assad, his henchman, and his “glamorous” wife. The simple performances also heap ridicule on the regime for its atrocities, as shown in the puppet beheading illustrating this article.
The short and entertaining shows are worth watching and promoting as examples of cultural resistance to dictatorship, and as ideas for battling other adversaries, such as he regime in Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. (Click here for Top Goon’s YouTube channel in Arabic; and here for the channel with English captions and subtitles.)
Art as political warfare
We in America should be supporting them. The Dutch royal family has been helping these artists with grants. This type of expression is also an important weapon to use against the well-organized, militant, and un-humorous Muslim Brotherhood, which is seeking to take control of Syria.
“A creative and resolutely non-violent form of opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime has taken hold in Syria, as the country’s artists respond to the crisis with newfound boldness and purpose, despite the clear dangers in doing so,” CNN reports in a feature titled, “Breaking the Fear.”
“‘Since the uprising, the artists have broken through the wall of fear in Syria and are thinking in another way,’ said Syrian journalist Aram Tahhan, one of the curators of an exhibition on Syria’s creative dissent — Culture in Defiance — currently on display in Amsterdam.
“The uprising has changed the artists’ thinking about the task of art in society, how they can do something useful for society,” Tahhan said in the CNN report. “They have rewritten everything.”
Syrian artists have broken through a 50-year-old “wall of fear,” exhibiting their underground work in the Netherlands-based exhibit.
“With works spanning from painting to song to cartoons, puppet theater to graffiti to plays, the exhibition traces the way that Syrian artists have used a range of creative techniques within traditional and new media to create political, populist art that that both brooks “the red line” of dissent and engages the public in unprecedented ways,” according to CNN.
The Syrian uprising began after the regime arrested schoolchildren for painting anti-government graffiti; the arrests were not for vandalism but because of their political content. Dictator Bashar Assad is extremely sensitive to satire and ridicule, in part for his own political survival and in part because of a physical deformity – an unusually long neck – that makes him an easy target for puppeteers (see photo).
“From the beginning the regime has known it’s dangerous to use the image, to use art,” Tahhan tells CNN. “The camera is the equal of any weapon from the point of view of the regime.”
(Hat tip to DS)