“Aish”, meaning ‘Live’, is a graffiti campaign that turned the bombarded town of Kafranbel, south ofIdlib, into an open-air art exhibition. Excerpts from an interview with a member of the group who preferred to remain anonymous. It was conducted in March 2020, about three weeks after the Syrian government took control of Kafranbel. 

Since when did the group started working?

The campaign's initial goal was to decorate the bombarded city and its surroundings. Then, after the campaign drew people’s attention, it started conveying socio-political messages on the situation. Also, documenting the massacres that was taking place was another aspect of the campaign. In addition, we did advocacy and solidarity work for women and children and participated in the activities of the Syrian revolution.

What did these graffiti warriors want to achieve?

Wall writings were the spark, from which we set out to gain freedom. The writings on the walls sent out the messages aloud. It was a catalyst for our people to resist the criminality of the regime. These were messages that urged resilience. Also, the whole world could see that from the ruins we made art and amidst destructions we made the rubbles speak. The drawing on the walls delivered our voice that many did not want to hear with their ears.

Why was Kafranbel chosen as the location? Is it because all members of the group hailed from this town?

The campaign started in Kafranbel but we also worked at Saraqib and in the northern countryside of Idlib. Some work was done in the countryside of Aleppo. In general, we worked in areas outside the control of the Assad regime.

How much risk and harassment you had to face?

I was arrested many times... tortured. It was so painful that I tried to commit suicide. Twice I was arrested by the Syrian regime. Once I was arrested by ISIS. Another time I had a narrow escape from landing in ISIS’ hands. Then, Jabhat Al Nusra nabbed me twice and one was detained by AbabilHouran.

What's the present situation?

Most of the artistes currently live in the city of Idlib and in some areas nearby. They meet when working and drawing. Idlib is out of control of the Assad regime, so are the northern country sides of Idlib. But the south of Idlib, including Kafranbel, recently fell. The top-most risk the team members face is from bombing by the Assad regime. There also is a threat of armed groups.

What's the present situation?

I would rather not name any. This could land team members working on the ground in trouble.