News / Middle East

Beirut Walls Become Forum for Social, Political Messages

Beirut Walls Become Forum for Social, Political Messagesi
X
July 10, 2013 11:44 AM
During Lebanon's 15-year civil war, territorial markings became commonplace. They separated neighborhoods along sectarian lines, using symbols, flags and portraits of political leaders. Today, a rise in sectarian tensions in Lebanon fueled by the war in neighboring Syria, has contributed to an increase in poliltical and social graffiti. Paige Kollock reports from Beirut.

Beirut Walls Become Forum for Social, Political Messages

Paige Kollock
— During Lebanon's 15-year civil war, territorial markings became commonplace. They separated neighborhoods along sectarian lines, using symbols, flags and portraits of political leaders.  Today, a rise in sectarian tensions in Lebanon fueled by the war in neighboring Syria, has contributed to an increase in political and social graffiti.

Barely a wall in Beirut is untouched.  From murals to political messages to advertisements, the walls are serving as a place for public dialogue and political debate.

Whether it's a message against the Turkish annexation of Western Armenia, or denouncing rape, or protesting the war in Syria, these days it seems everyone has something to say.

"No to the extension" says one message, referring the Lebanese Parliament's recent decision to extend its term for another 17 months.  Below it, a continuation: "not even one day."

Graffiti allow people to voice their frustration according to graffiti artist Yazen Halwani, 20.  He is having the first-ever solo show for a graffiti artist, entitled 'Joumhouriat el Mouz', which means 'Banana Republic'.

"A banana republic is a system where you have very few people governing the country and it's corrupt and this is exactly an illustration of Lebanon," he explained.

Graffiti artists -- both amateur and professional -- have written about the war in neighboring Syria.  But many messages -- both for and against the regime -- have been removed or crossed out.  Halwani says that inspires graffiti artists to get more creative.

"The most important thing is that the political views should not be blunt, should not be childish, and especially should not be very aggressive," Halwani said.

Graffiti were not always so nuanced.  Public space in Lebanon used to be occupied by inscriptions and stencils related to war and sectarian politics, explained Tania Helou, who has studied civil war graffiti.
 
"It was a way to impose a geographic territory for each party, or each neighborhood, or each military faction," she said.

Evidence of those markings remain in Ain el-Rammaneh -- a low income Christian neighborhood covered with symbols of a political party called "The Lebanese Forces".  

Residents like Joseph Elias Harb say it makes them feel protected.

"The love of the leaders is always in our hearts, but when you see the graffiti of your leader next to you, you feel more comfortable," he said.

Tania Helou said that for the most part, messages have evolved away from religious, military and ideological topics to become more social and environmental.
 
But whether artistic or militant, as sectarian lines become more strongly etched in the psyches of Lebanese, conversations that cannot be had on the streets are increasingly etched on city walls.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid