Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Our first glimpse of Syria is through the eyes of hundreds of children living in the Bab Al Hawa refugee camp on the Turkish Border. We’re in Juan Zero’s art studio – a tent about 10 metres long and 4 metres wide with wind billowing through it, rustling hundreds of crayon-drawn pictures by children aged between 5-14.
Juan is a Syrian activist and cartoonist who set up Jasmine Baladi Studio at the camp nine months ago. On any given day a hundred children can cram up to the tent door screaming with joy to get in. Groups rotate, 30 kids all sit round a long table, quietly drawing, gently encouraged by male and female youth volunteers.
The pictures are overwhelmingly positive: sunny houses, flowers, animals, birds. ‘We don’t let them dwell on the past’, explains Juan, ‘We want them to focus on the future. The past for many of these children is horrific’. There are some of the usual drawings of blunt bullets firing out of box-y tanks and out of clunky planes onto red-scratched stick bodies that could be from any war zone.
But the predominant image popping up across the gallery-walls is bizarrely Sponge Bob Square Pants. And not just any Sponge Bob. We’re talking Sponge Bob Jaish al Hurr (Free Army Sponge Bob), waving the new Syrian Independence flag, raising a rifle, wearing military fatigues even. The kids have adapted Sponge Bob into a symbol of the Syrian revolution.
*Some names have been changed
This is the fourth part of a six day serialization of Ewa’s trip to Syria. It accompanies Jon Sack’s beautiful reportage from the Syrian border in comic form: The Physio.
Ewa Jasiewicz is a journalist and campaigner. She is part of a small international solidarity initiative working to support grassroots groups in Syria. Please support these organisations:
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now argues that after years of colonial domination and dodgy trade deals, the UK must make amends and support Zimbabwe in this uncertain time.
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny