The Statue of Liberty Betrays Syrians

06 December 2014

In the collective memory of Syrians, the United States has been long associated with vicious conspiracies, to the point where its name became synonymous with the word evil. This was partly because of US policy, and specifically its support for Israel and Arab tyrants. However, it was also influenced by the nationalist agenda of the Ba'ath party, which had Syrians convinced that there is no time for internal reform, while America is at the door.

In the wake of the uprising, Syrian people found solace in the speeches of president Obama that periodically emphasized that “Assad's days are numbered”; and observing the firm stance of the US against Assad, they were willing to offer America a clean slate.

Nevertheless, as peaceful demonstrators were killed by the thousands before the eyes of the world, and especially after president Obama welcomed the seizure of Assad’s chemical weapons, Syrians realized that these were only empty promises. Artists have taken this chance to portray the anger and frustration of Syrians, by using the Statue of Liberty as the protagonist of their paintings.

Wissam al-Jazairy for instance, painted Lady Liberty sporting a gas mask, in reference to the chemical weapons agreement that allowed Assad to continue killing his people in other arms. While in American Dream, an artwork by Mustafa Yaaqoub, the Statue of Liberty stands over a stockpile of skulls, with an excerpt from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.

لوحة للفنان جمال الجراح. المصدر: الصفحة الرسمية للفنان على الفيسبوك

Other paintings attempt to portray that America is, first and foremost, betraying the values it stands for. Artist Thaer Maarouf expressed this frustration by painting Lady Liberty covered with torn pieces of money, as an indication for the dominance of money and interest in US policies. While Jamal Jarrah chose to depict this hypocrisy by painting the Statue with melting wax, holding a burned torch.

The symbolism of the statue however, remained present in the work of other artists. Tammam Azzam assembled Lady Liberty from the rubble of a destroyed building in Syria, in reference to the freedom that Syrians are seeking. In another artwork by Mustafa Yaaqoub, a man is in a race against time as he climbs up a long ladder to freedom, which is represented by the Statue of Liberty. “The Syrian people are trying to ascend into freedom,” says Yaaqoub to SyriaUntold, “they are trying to leave oppression and tyranny behind, but the violence of the regime prevents them from reaching to the top.”


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad