Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Mezze Mural of Mystery

The service (vilaat gharbiye) I used to ride to work drove past this mural every day. And even in a whole year of living in Damascus, I was never able to figure out what, exactly, it was a mural of.

As best as I can figure out, it has something to do with Iraq. But that’s about all I’m certain of.

Even if the contents of the mural were, by some miracle, explained to me by someone, one mystery remains: what are kids doing drawing pictures of soldiers shooting at people on a public wall?

It makes only slightly more sense than this (which, if I remember correctly, was actually staged) (it's Israeli children writing messages on missiles destined for Lebanon during the conflict last summer).

Can anyone figure this out better than I’ve been able to?


Wassim said...

I can see the direction you'd like the nature of thought to go, but I feel you already know the answer to this. Please forgive me as I tend to read too much between the lines. The picture you linked to was not, as a matter of fact, staged. A context of some sort was provided, but it was flimsy at best and the pictures were indeed of children writing messages to Nasrallah and others on the bombs. It appears you have doubts about its validity, so we'll leave it at that.

The parallel you are trying to connect this with, that the Syrian students/children here were (perhaps) egged on to draw pictures of war and violence, perhaps is to infer that there is hate being taught to the children at a young age in this part of the world. Is this why conflict and war are so endemic in this region? All these questions arise once somebody follows the framework you construct in your article.

You ask if I can figure it out better? I don't know about better, but here goes. All I can put forth is that I dismiss the idea that there is an innocence lost somehow in the region which one might argue is fuelling the conflict. Children will be influenced by what is happening around them and this debate is in fact, in no danger of getting lost in a classic "chicken or egg" dilemma.

There is quite simply a root cause, occupation (be it American or Israeli),about which the children will inevitably be expressing themselves. It is impossible not to isolate them from this and in fact, crucial to teach them what is happening as it is they who will have to carry the struggle forward for their parents rights, lands and sovereignty. Influenced or not is not the question we should be asking/inferring and creates an unnecessary and artifical argument. This is all in my opinion and of course, like everything in this region, is highly debatable.


KJ said...

War has influenced everyone in the region (be it Syria or otherwise) and it is only natural for children to express what they see and feel regardless of whether or not they understand their magnitude.

Children relate to things in the immediate surroundings, and the media has been a great influence on the kids in terms of violence. Even WITHOUT exposure to actual scenes of violence, children (typically boys) already play with toy soldiers and draw up similar images.

Bridget said...

OK, I think I can see where both of you are coming from.

To clarify, the questionable moment in my mind is the point where a teacher or other leader of children says, "Hey kids, gather round: we're going to paint a mural of war carnage on the wall outside the school!" I don't doubt that children will often express themselves in this manner. What I question is such an expression being led (I assume) by an adult as a group activity.

The picture I linked to, whether staged or not, is far more disturbing. I actually don't know what's worse: children actually writing messages to the victims of bombs, or children being set up to appear to be doing so for a photo op.

Thank you, Wassim and KJ, for helping me distill my thoughts a little bit.

That said, I meant for this blog entry to be a sort of "random thing that was strange for an American to see" moment than a political statement.

Wassim said...

Bridget I have to ask you. Is it really so strange as an American to see this? I've been to America and live in Britain. Is it so different from the video games children are conditioned to play here where a heroic sniper goes into very Middle Eastern looking cities to complete objectives and where your own army markets an online game encouraging children to join the army? I've seen Bowling for Columbine and Michael Moore shows us something much more disturbing than anything you describe here.

Bridget said...


Re: "Is it so different from the video games children are conditioned to play here where a heroic sniper goes into very Middle Eastern looking cities to complete objectives...?"

No, it's not so different.

But I maintain that until American children start painting murals of armed conflict outside their schools, things like this will still be "strange" for me. Surely you can allow me that opinion, so narrowly defined. :)

And after all this, I'm still curious as to what, exactly, the mural is depicting. Can anyone read the Arabic better than I can? Are they Iraqi forces or American ones? Etc.

M. Al Jabi said...

I dont see how a comparison can be drawn between this and the Israeli children writing on shells. On one hand this is at most a drawing showing/depicting an incident or an event that took place during the past, i don't believe that it is as shocking as the children writing notes on shells during a time of war.
I don't think it is even as shocking as what you get on TV these days.

Anyways i think i see an ambulance, and the tank is not really american since it has an arab looking flag. maybe its the 1973 war?