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Monday, 18 March 2013


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(source: the guardian)
Scenes from Syria, illustrated by George Butler – in pictures
In his second dispatch from Syria, illustrator George Butler uses watercolours to tell the devastating stories of victims
The Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week announced that the total number of refugees was 182,000. Although accurate, this doesn’t take into account the ­unregistered, which is thought to be over 500,000. Many of those I saw have been ­living in ­makeshift tents, as they can’t fit into the camps ­provided by the government and aid agencies.

Ahmed, 10, was hit by a rocket while I was drawing him (13 February 2013). Nothing seems more mundane than drawing when you are standing next to a child that has lost his mother, his brother and his right leg within the past 48 hours. In this picture, his father Yassar’s face is racked with worry as he sits in a clinic at Bab al-Hawa. Ahmed keeps pulling his adult-sized oxygen mask off his little face.

Halid, who is 10, must be one of the bravest people I am ever likely to meet. Four weeks ago, his mother unknowingly told a Shia woman in their new village that her eldest three sons were fighting in the Free Syrian Army. The neighbour reported her to the Shabiha (mercenaries paid by the regime). According to Halid, after a knock at the door his father was “turned into two pieces” by a heavy gun usually used against vehicles. He and his mother tried to escape to Turkey. At a checkpoint, his mother dropped told him: “Don’t stop, move!” Halid did as he was told, but at a safe distance he turned to see his mother’s head cut off with a sword. Halid’s 16-year-old brother has been killed in the fighting and another brother is missing. The only positive shred from this crushing story is that Halid has been adopted and is now safe. For the time being.

Mama Nazak left Syria in 1980 after being hung by her hands under the Hafez al-Assad regime for not being a member of the ruling party. One of her sons, a police officer, returned to his base one day. What he found would change his family’s lives for ever. He caught three of his colleagues and a superior officer raping a 13-year-old girl. He drew his gun and killed three of them; the fourth was shot through the cheek. Mama Nazak’s family fled to Turkey. Despite her pleading, her three sons returned to Syria to fight. One was shot in the head and killed while launching a rocket, one in the arm trying to save him, and the other, on a separate ­occasion, in the stomach, which left him paralysed from the waist down. “You can say I had three flowers in my garden: one was eaten by the beast and two ­trampled down with the beast’s foot,” Mama Nazak heartbreakingly ­explains. It is Mama Nazak who has adopted Halid.

Parts of Taftanaz town were ­destroyed after the airbase was captured by the Free Syrian Army in mid-January. As I was drawing in Taftanaz, the distinctive whistling of a tank round punctuated the air. It was close enough for my Free Syrian Army escort to put his ­fingers in the ears, but we were in no immediate danger and after a few seconds we carried on as normal. It did, however, give me a ­shallow insight into how ­difficult it must be to have any sort of life in Syria at the moment. The drawing was rushed and perhaps uninventive, but its job is really to provide a context for the other work.

Ibrahim is 24 and describes himself as a general in the Free Syrian Army. He was shelled last May in Idlib and is getting used to his new leg, which he has had for a month. He says he would like to return to fight Assad. 

More ilustrations by George Butler can be seen at a fundraiser for Syria in London on 25 April; buy tickets at


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you :) but it's, you know, just putting it together from a source