On the night of August 21, 2013 I was in New York City. I had just returned from a humanitarian mission in Atmeh, Syria's largest internally displaced refugee camp, and a few hours away from my hometown, Aleppo. I will be forever changed after witnessing almost 30,000 Syrians living in tents and dust. The conditions were horrible. A Syrian woman told me, "Death is better than living here." I am haunted by that women and so many others we spent time with among the olive trees in Syria. August 21, 2013 will also forever haunt me. It was past midnight and I couldn't sleep. So I turned to twitter for the latest news on Syria. Tweets started to come in from activists and locals on the ground in Ghouta, a small suburban district on the outskirts of Damascus, claiming that missiles with chemical weapons had been dropped throughout the night. They reported that the air was thick with toxic fumes. Quickly, the tweets become more desperate and the images more horrific, as we all helplessly watched the body count rise live via social media. The final count from the Ghouta chemical weapons massacre was over 1400 Syrian lives in one night.
The Syria Twitter Portrait series was inspired from that night, capturing the darkest periods in Syria's recent history. Each painting's background is compiled of tweets during specific dates/times of Syrian massacres that took place over the last three years. This series, unfortunately, is still in progress. The paintings are dedicated to the memory of the thousands of Syrian lives lost and especially to the most innocent of victims: the children. The portraits are of Syrian refugee children whose photos were taken by Mohamad Ojjeh, from
our trips to the Syrian-Turkish border over the last year. #NeverForget