Syrian Arab Republic
Concern grows for leading Syrian artist in detention
Wife's email petition for Youssef Abdelke's release gains widespread support
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 30 July 2013
The wife of the Syrian artist Youssef Abdelke has launched an online appeal in a bid to gain the release of her husband, who has been detained by the Syrian authorities since mid-July. Abdelke was arrested on 18 July, along with two colleagues,by forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, at a checkpoint in Tartous, a southern port city.
The emailed petition, co-organised by Abdelke’s wife, Ala Yakoub, states: “[He] was keen to stay in Damascus in recent years, despite the difficulties of daily life and the dangers of surviving under a regime with an unlimited capacity for violence.”
The 62-year-old artist has condemned Assad’s regime and recently signed a petition initiated by Syrian artists calling for the removal of the president, according to the news website France 24. A former member of the Syrian communist party, Abdelke was jailed from 1978 to 1980. He moved to Paris after his release, returning to Syria in 2005. The civil war in Syria began in late 2011.
A painter of still-lifes, Abdelke participated in the 2011 Sharjah Biennial as well as the eighth Cairo Biennial in 2001. London's British Museum holds important works by the artist in its collection. In a statement, the museum expressed its "great concern" about his detention. Venetia Porter, its curator responsible for Modern and contemporary art of the Middle East, says: "[He] is one of the most significant artists of the Middle East of his generation and a great inspiration to others. It is hoped that he will soon be freed in order to be able to continue his work."
In 2010, Abdelke told the New York Times: “Today the world media knows when a dissident is jailed, which wasn’t the case when I was imprisoned. But this creates an impression that there’s less of a problem, when actually things are just as bad or worse.”
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