The filmmaker wife of acclaimed Syrian artist Youssef Abdelke, Ms. Hala Alabdalla, has made a mass appeal for his release from jail in launching a Facebook campaign and email petition. According to Ms. Alabdalla, her husband was “keen to stay in Damascus… despite the difficulties of daily life and dangers of… violence”.
Mr. Abdelke was arrested on July 18th while at a checkpoint in coastal, pro-Assad Syrian city of Tartous. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the Assad regime since the uprising in Syria began over two years ago and is a noted communist, having been jailed for two years in the 1970s. Rumour has it that he had recently signed a petition created by the Syrian art community calling for Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad to relinquish his power. On July 30th, a group of Arab artists held a small solidarity gathering in neighbouring Lebanon in support of Mr. Abdelke. According to one of the Syrian artists present at the gathering, Houmam Alsayed, “[Artists can be] weapon(s)… that use pen and paper.”
Born in Kamlishi, Syria, Mr. Abdelke graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University in the Syrian capital, going on to receive degrees in etching and plastic arts from l’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts and the University of Paris VIII, respectively, in Paris, France. Mr. Abdelke is an extremely versatile artist, specialising in drawing, painting, sculpture and engraving, among other specialties. His themes range from quiet still-lives to social or political satire. Since the uprising began in Syria, Mr. Abdelke has chosen to stay in his home country, having spent much of his life in exile in France after his first and aforementioned jail term some forty years ago.
More recent works have incorporated images and scenes of war-torn Syria, with Mr. Abdelke creating charcoal sketchings and oil paintings that have placed him in international spotlight for their poetic and often eerie, surreal flavours. Most are dark and without colour, with the exception of crimson red blood on certain pieces.
Regarded by some as “Syria’s national treasure”, Abdelke has been featured at l’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, France, the British Museum in London, UK, all over the Arab world and in other international locations.
No mention has been made of his potential release.
To join the Facebook group supporting Youssef Abdelke, click here.