12 WORDS

Sotyo In July 1970, we left Sotyo, my native village, to move to Raqqa because my father found a job there. I was six months old at that time. All my beautiful memories are related to this village that I revisited many times. It is these memories that inspired my painting since the beginning. My father’s grave is there.

Wood pencils I was 7 years old then I did my first painting, with wood pencils. It’s a beautiful memory : I discovered I was able to draw stories. My stories. Without talking. I felt like Edison discovering electricity.

Farat My younger brother died in 1980… One morning, I discovered him lying on the sofa. I held him in my arms : he wasn’t moving. I covered him with a blanket and called my mother. Farat was dead. I was ten years old.

1988 I finished my high school in Aleppo. My father wanted me to study law. I wanted to go to the art college. But it was open only to rich and powerful people. I couldn’t do it. So I choose philosophy and moved to Damascus to study.

Prison I went to prison twice : the first time, because I was speaking Kurdish. The second time, because I published five protest poems on a poetry website. The police caught me at the border on my way to Lebanon for an exhibition.

Exhibitions My first exhibition was held in Aleppo in 2001. Others followed, mainly in Syria, but also others in the USA, Spain, Lebanon, Germany and Switzerland.

Daddy My father was a very inspiring person, who always supported me in my art work. He passed away in 2005, which was a terrible loss. The day he died, I was asked to stay in the funeral room for 4 hours, to make sure nobody could steal parts of his body for experimentation. I will never forget that.

Kilometers The first time I tried to escape from Syria (2012), we travelled from Afrin to Turkey walking the last 4 km with all my family in the mountains. It was winter, and so cold.

One year later, we tried again. This time we walked the final 10 kilometers to cross the border to Iraq. It was summer, so hot! My kids were thirsty, we had no water. It was so painful to hold them. Again, the situation there wasn’t good, we had to go back.

We moved in Switzerland in 2014, with the support of my sister- in-law who was already living here.

Jesus I was born a Muslim. A Christian friend of mine in Syria invited me to go to church with him. I liked the atmosphere and went back every Sunday. I converted to Christianity later. Today, Jesus is a figure like my father was. Full of love. He provides me safety, peace and freedom.

Family My family is all I have in life. I suffered so much. My family is the only reason that keeps me alive.

Dignity Without dignity, you don’t feel human. Being a refugee steals your dignity.

Freedom Freedom, as well as democracy, are what human beings are looking for. There is no life without freedom to say, write, paint what you want.

What is more important than freedom and dignity ?  

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