Socialist Worker

Syria Speaks is an art book so subversive it can get you arrested

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2517

Public Nausea by Yasmeen Fanari (detail)

Public Nausea by Yasmeen Fanari (detail)


Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the ­Frontline
Edited by Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen and Nawara Mahfoud
Saqi Books, £12.99

Reading about art and culture from the frontline of Syria’s revolution was enough to get Faizah Shaheen, a Muslim woman from Leeds, held under the Terrorism Act last month.

The award-winning book Syria Speaks was part of her holiday reading. It is a collection of essays, short stories, poems, songs, cartoons and photographs from Syrian authors and artists.

In the Islamophobic atmosphere whipped up by our rulers, one Thomson Airways cabin crew member thought she was suspicious and saw the book as dangerous.

It’s worth getting a copy as it probably is dangerous—but not in that way.

Syria Speaks documents the flourishing of creative dissent after decades of dictatorial control by successive Assad regimes. As one essay puts it, “the doors of the Kingdom of Silence were flung open”.

New art collectives aimed at “creating solidarity and undermining the regime’s brutal military campaign”.

Some produced for the practical needs of the struggle—from political posters to downloadable stencils to spray the slogans of rebellion and defiance, such as “Your bullets killed only our fear”.

Others, like those behind the hit internet series Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator, use finger puppets—easy to smuggle through checkpoints—to satirise and mock the regime.

Some of the art is haunting, some has a sharp anti-imperialist edge. Overall it celebrates the beauty and endurance of ordinary people and their acts of resistance.


Hamde Abu Rahma - photos in Scotland

Palestinian photographer Hamde Abu Rahma is in Scotland this month after campaigners overturned the authorities’ refusal to give him a visa.

His work is on display at Govanhill Community Baths in Glasgow and Tollcross Community Centre in Edinburgh.


Roger Casement

Roger Casement


1916 Portraits and Lives


For holiday reading with a difference this summer, why not download this free collection of biographies put online by the Irish government earlier this year?

It examines 40 people who played a role in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin—from revolutionaries who led it to British army officials who had them shot.

New etchings of them by artist David Rooney bring it to life.


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