In pictures: How a rebel fighter became 'Syria's Banksy' 


Rebel fighter by day, artist by night - a young Syrian's street art offers a sharp commentary on the country's civil war.

As a suburb of Damascus faced near-constant bombardment and a chronic lack of food, water and power, an incongruous mural appeared on the wall of a bombed-out building.

It showed a young girl standing on a pile of skulls writing a single word on a wall: Hope.

The painting brought the artist Abu Malik al-Shami to international attention and earned him comparisons with Banksy. Like Banksy, he is a politically aware street artist whose paintings have often appeared suddenly and overnight, but his messages and images are adapted to Syria's cataclysmic civil war.
For two years, from summer 2014 to summer 2016, Shami's murals popped up in dozens of locations throughout Darayya, 10km from the centre of Damascus.


Before the war started in 2011 the artist, now 22 years old, was attending high school in Damascus. He joined anti-government protests in the capital and began using his self-taught artistic skills to spread revolutionary messages.

But in early 2013, still a teenager, he travelled to Darayya to join the Free Syrian Army, taking his sketchbooks and pencils with him.
On his first day in Darayya, he says, he was taught to shoot a gun. On his second day, he was sent to the front line. It was only much later, in 2014, that he met an artist named Majd, nicknamed the "Eye of Darayya" who encouraged him to take up street art.

His first mural, on the ruins of a large house, depicted a girl pointing to a heart - teaching a soldier about love, before he goes out to fight.
"The process was very tiring," he says. "Every day, I used to fight on the front line, and only in my free time would I paint and draw."


Faisal Irshaid BBC Arabic, 13/10/2016