"Assad's soldiers; After God, only Bashar al-Assad; Syria's Assad Will Remain," are some of the words splashed in graffiti on a sculpture adorning the park located in the Jisr al-Ra'is [President Bridge] area, in central Damascus. This sculpture was not unique: many other statues in this and other areas, received more than their fair share of such slogans.
These sculptures which used to adorn streets, have turned into part of the visible change the streets of Damascus have witnessed. The Syrian regime forced all shopkeepers to paint their shop shutters with the colors of its flag, and Assad's images proliferate on most streets and roads, especially at checkpoints, alongside large signs with pictures of regime soldiers who fell in the Syrian conflict.
Sculptures, usually a beautiful sight, have turned into mere provocations. With these words Samer, a student, summed up the slogans plastered over the artwork in some areas of Damascus.
Samah, an engineer, on the other hand said that these sculptures did not fit with the surrounding environment, to start with. They are made of white marble, which quickly becomes dirty from car exhaust fumes. Additionally, ordinary people had a hard time understanding these sculptures in their original state; what with them now becoming placards for pro-regime slogans?
Bab Touma, al-Amara, and Images of the Fallen
The walls of the areas of Bab Touma and al-Amara, in the old city of Damascus, were overtaken with pictures and names of fallen regime—as well as of Hezbollah's—fighters. Hezbollah's flags were thickly plastered around the names of the Party's fallen fighters, in addition to images of Hassan Nasrallah with Bashar, Maher, and Hafez al-Assad.
The regime's campaigns which include forcing the painting of the flag on shop shutters and concrete barriers, and plastering the pictures of Assad and Nasrallah; prompted many youth initiatives to launch campaigns to counter them.
The Shams [Sun] Initiative launched a campaign under the name of "Colored Path." This comprised the painting of murals on the Dar-es-Salaam school walls in the Shaalan neighborhood in Damascus. Prior to that, a campaign to beautify the walls of the Ruslan al-Dimashqi school with colorful art paintings, was launched. The students and graduates of the College of Fine Arts in Damascus painted more than 12 colorful, three-dimensional murals on the Dar-es-Salaam school, laden with a variety of meanings and indications.
This campaign mostly met with acclaim from the capital's population. Lamis, a student in the Faculty of Law, says: "When I walk past these walls, I feel hope and optimism in light of the devastation Syria is witnessing. This is because these paintings holds no bias to either of the parties [to the conflict]."
Outside Damascus Too
These coloring campaigns were not limited to the capital alone, but took place in other areas as well. Al-Nabk city in the Damascus countryside, witnessed simillar attempts to spread colors and paintings.
The Souriyyat Yassna'an al-Salam [Syrian Women Make Peace] Organizartion recently launched an initiative entitled "Walls of Peace," during which volunteers stemming from several Syrian cities, painted nine murals on the wall of the Nabek city cemetery in the Damascus countryside . The mural was 83 meters long, and two and a half meter high.
Project Director, Amira Malek says: "From death to life—this is the idea we wanted to convey through this initiative. The wall behind represents death, with life standing in front of it; we do not wish to disregard death, rather to emphasize that our will to continue."
The Project Director, finally, advised that they are planning to color the cemetery walls in another city, next spring.