The revolutionary movement that started in Kafranbel in March 2011 has yet to run out of steam. The diverse town still raises banners and and slogans related to all events ongoing in Syria. It stands in solidarity with other towns and cities in not just Syria, but in the world. It has not adopted any sectarian or exclusivist slogans. Rather, the town has featured Syria’s social mosaic in their movement.
The town has long been famous for its mosaics. In 1995, a mosaic company called “Ebla” was opened in the region, and employed more than 40% of the town’s population. Nowadays, the town is more preoccupied with revolutionary activity. Their latest foray in mosaics has been a “Revolution Panorama” which features the various stages and transformations that the Syrian revolution has undergone. The panorama, assembled from over 1 million pieces of stone, took more than a year to be completed. Standing at 24 meters long and 130 cm wide, it features the faces of the Syrian revolution, like Ghiyath Matar, Ahmad Sayasneh, Basel Shehade, Hamza al-Khateeb, and Hadi Abdallah. The mosaic was completed with the help of the aid organization, “Orient” and 35 volunteers from the city
The project, however, has not been without controversy. The mural features the portrait of Ghassan Abboud, a businessman and the director of the Orient Network. This image reminded many of the various portraits of Hafez Al-Assad and resurrected fears about creating an atmosphere similar to that of the tyrannical regime. Others, however, disagreed with these criticisms and comparisons, stating that Abboud is an influential actor and personality in the Syrian revolution and deserves to be honored as such.
The controversy and conversation around his image began when Raed Fares, one of the activists in the city, posted pictures of the mural, including the portrait of Ghassan Abboud, on his personal Facebook page, prompting Abboud to thank the people of Kafranbel for the honor.
There was an uproar: many were upset that Orient had commissioned the mural, and stated it that was inappropriate in its current location. Many said that it shouldn’t feature Ghassan Abboud and that it gave the wrong impression to those who were unaware of its context.
When SyriaUntold asked Ghassan Abboud for a comment in response to the controversy, he said that he was unsure whether or not the mural would be changed, given that it is a mosaic.
Abdel Razzaq Alhammoud, head of the Kafranbel Local Council’s Media Office, told SyriaUntold, “this panorama does not represent the revolutionary movement in the city,” but that it “was manufactured specifically by Ghassan Abboud’s organizations.” However, he went on to say that “[Kafranbel] cannot ignore the services offered by Orient Hospital for those in Hama and Idlib, as well as its employment of over 100 people who were previously out of work.”
Opinions on social media seem to be split on the inclusion of Ghassan Abboud, with many commending his contributions to humanitarian and media aid. However, others compared it to the regime that they were revolting against, saying that this is a symbol of what everyone had risen up against and an inclusion of his picture is a harkening to a culture that they no longer want replicated.