Art work by Khaled Akil, illustrating the ancient Aleppo citadel
© Khaled Akil
Art work by Khaled Akil, illustrating the ancient Aleppo citadel
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Last updated: May 30, 2013

Q&A with Syrian artist Khaled Akil

Banner Icon War in Syria Your Middle East's managing editor caught up with celebrated Syrian artist Khaled Akil who currently resides in Istanbul. Akil paints a grim picture of his beloved Syria and says the problem is no longer political.

Adam Hedengren: You left Aleppo 7 months ago, why did you decide to leave? 

Khaled Akil: At some point, you need to look after your own future, taking into consideration that the war in Syria is designed to kill Hope, Soul and moreover Humanity. I decided to leave in order to protect what is left of my own humanity and self-esteem, I wanted to feel free to tell the story of one of the greatest cities in the world: Aleppo, to tell our own story through our own perspective, to tell what I lived there and what I truly believe.

Syria was, is and will not be the suitable and free place to speak freely anymore.

AH: You now live in Istanbul, is it possible for you to form a "normal" life there, having the realities of the war in your homeland so close?

KA: I believe that one of the hardest things you can experience is to leave your beloved people "behind" in the middle of war, I use the word "behind" in purpose because you never know if they would make it there or not, you leave them surrounded by death, horror and hatred, sometimes I think if they manage to live, would they be able to defend their own worth, would they be able to heal their wounds?

I feel guilty all the time, guilty when I turn on the light while they had no electricity for more than 15 days, guilty when I eat while they didn't and still don't have bread to survive sometimes, and of course guilty when I think about smiling or having a normal life, I witnessed part of the horror in Syria and I know what it means, unfortunately I can assure you now that I can tell the difference between the Kalashnikov's, PKC's, and RPG's sounds!

AH: This is a difficult one to answer; where do you see Syria in a year?

KA: I don't see "Syria" anymore, I mean I don't see the beautiful and peaceful Syria anymore, how could this great civilization produce that much brutality and anger if I don't even say envy in some cases, this is not the Syria I used to know and these fighters, thieves and low people "from both sides" are not the Syrians I used to live with, that is why I have no projections or even hope in the next Syrian generation.

We should see the reality, the problem is no longer political, it is just like what I kept on saying in my previous exhibition "The Unmentioned", the problem is basically social, sexual, religious lately transformed into political, it is not about Assad or Freedom anymore...

It is all about people putting their country on sale and waiting for the best price... Unfortunately, we lost Syria...

EDITOR'S PICK One photographer in Aleppo keeps battling the odds

Adam Hedengren
Adam is co-founder and editor of Your Middle East. He has studied Arabic and Middle Eastern history, and previously lived in Syria and Tunisia. He is an active voice in Swedish media on issues relating to migration policy, integration, and the Middle East. Adam is also project manager for the educational initiative www.nyamellanostern.se
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