Syria's Idlib bids Merkel farewell in a token of gratitude

Idlib-based Syrian artists bid farewell to Merkel following retirement from German politics
3 min read
30 September, 2021
The internationally-renowned Syrian artists also were behind Idlib's famous mural of George Floyd, painted last year.
Idlib-based artists, Al-Asmar and Hamdoun, created the mural on a building destroyed by Russian forces reads "goodbye Merkel, the Syrians will miss you" [Yusef Gharibi]

Two Syrian artists have created a mural of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a destroyed wall in the eastern Idlib town of Binnish, as a token of gratitude for the leader before she leaves office this year.

Artist Aziz Al-Asmar and Anis Saleh Hamdoun thanked Merkel on behalf of Syrians after Germany's first woman chancellor opened the border to refugees in 2015, during the height of the Syria war.

Merkel - who is set to retire from politics following the 26 September German elections - has been praised by many Syrians for the humanitarian act, despite criticism from some in Germany.

The mural was painted on the wall of a building destroyed by Russian forces four days ago, and reads: "Goodbye Merkel, the Syrians will miss you".

Artist Aziz Al-Asmar told The New Arab that the painting reflects the warmth Syrians feel toward the German leader. 

"Angela Merkel deserves respect and her beautiful picture is painted in our hearts and on the walls of our homes that were destroyed by the bombings," Al-Asmar said on Thursday.

Al-Asmar and Hamdoun have collaborated before to celebrate Merkel in Idlib, painting a mural of her when she was being tested for Covid-19 in March 2020, which came back negative.

Merkel opened Germany's borders to one million refugees at the height of the Syrian crisis.

But as part of Frontex, the EU's border protection agency, Germany has tried to stem the flow of Syrian and other refugees at the Turkey-Greece border as they try to make their way north and west. Frontex has been accused of conducting illegal pushbacks as well as other refugee rights violations.

Earlier this year, the coalition Merkel leads voted against taking 5,000 refugees stranded at Greek camps.

Nevertheless, many Syrians have expressed gratitude for her earlier refugee policies.

Idlib-based photojournalist Yousef Gharibi told The New Arab that he was one of many Syrians who praised the work of art.

"The mural is a very beautiful idea... Angela of course deserves to have a painting in Idlib, because she supported Syrian refugees, opened her country to them, and endured criticism for them," he said. 

Al-Asmar and Hamdoun are internationally renowned for their work and have created many murals in Idlib in solidarity with global social justice causes.

These include the famous mural of George Floyd, a Black American killed in 2020 by US police officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

Al-Asmar said that the murals are meant to tell the oppressed in the world that despite their own hardships, Syrians stand with them too.

"Painting is a universal language understood by all, so we have taken it as a means to communicate with the world and stand in solidarity with their causes, sharing their joys and sorrows with our colours," he said.

"Through our drawings, we show our pain and our dreams, and that we are not terrorists as the [Syrian] regime tries to spread."

Idlib remains the last opposition stronghold in Syria, as dictator Bashar Al-Assad tries to re-capture the rest of the country with the help of his international allies including Russia and Iran.