First Published: 2017-05-24

Iraqi artist records IS brutality in secret
240 paintings and drawings which Mustafa al-Tha'i composed while his hometown was under IS rule are exhibition of horror.
Middle East Online

Tha'i worked in secret at night, using his brushes and pencils to record the violence he saw during the day

MOSUL - Mustafa al-Tha'i worked in secret at night, using his brushes and pencils to record the violence he saw during the day under the Islamic State group's brutal reign in Iraq.

The bloodied body of a man suspended by a foot, another lying in a pool of blood with his severed head on his back, a woman with her face burned by acid -- these are just some of the scenes captured by Tha'i.

The 240 paintings and drawings -- which Tha'i composed from the time IS seized his hometown of Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, in 2014 until Iraqi forces recaptured it in late 2016 -- are an exhibition of horror.

"IS is the enemy of the arts, the enemy of life, so I told myself that whenever I saw one of their crimes or something they did, I would relate it," he said.

"There were no journalists and they did not allow photographs, so I recorded the image in my head and at night at home, I painted," said the 58-year-old, an oven and boiler repairman by trade who has been "addicted" to drawing since childhood.

"The army is fighting against (IS) with weapons. Me, it's with my brush, my colours, my drawings, my paintings," Tha'i said as he sat cross-legged in his living room, drawing board in his lap.

At a time when art was banned by the jihadists -- who view depictions of people as contrary to Islam -- and drawing materials could not be found, Tha'i drew from his old stocks of paints, papers and pencils to "resist."

The pieces are simple and colourful, and each one tells a story.

"This child is a Christian," he explained, pointing to a portrait of a weeping girl.

"They took her when she was 12 years old. She was married to one of them, who left her to another, who married her" -- something that happened "four or five times," Tha'i said.

- 'It is my addiction' -

"I met her when I was in the hospital. She was crying. She had bruises on her face, wounds on the hands and body. I took a sheet of my medical record. I drew on it."

Another sketch depicts a man tied to a pole handcuffed and blindfolded.

Tha'i said the man was captured after firing at the jihadists.

"They tied him to an electric pole and they executed him after torturing him."

Tha'i did not keep his works at home, instead leaving them with a friend who hid them behind the back seat of his car.

But he believes he was denounced to IS, especially when he made sketches at work during the day.

IS "came to my house several times, they found nothing," he said.

The religious police came one night: "They told me they wanted my paintings and calligraphies. They took me away to the desert."

The jihadists lashed him and tied his legs to a car and dragged him behind it.

"I was reciting the Koran in a loud voice... Then, they tied my hands and my feet, brought me back and threw me in front of my house. I was found the next morning," he said.

Tha'i said he was detained for a total of 45 days because of his artworks, and twice sentenced to the lash.

But each time, the grandfather of seven kept drawing.

"I cannot give up drawing. It is my addiction, it calms me. I don't smoke -- I draw," Tha'i said.

During one stint in jail, he broke open a battery and used its contents to draw on a wall. A guard made him erase it by licking it off.

Today, he keeps his artwork in boxes as testimony to what he saw, and paints "what I have in front of me, what I find beautiful."

 

Iran airs "confessions" of researcher facing death for spying

Mayor of Libya's Misrata assassinated

Macron sees war on IS in Syria will be won in February

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey prosecutor seeks release of German reporter

Kuwait likely to face political uncertainty

Lebanon arrests suspected killer of British embassy worker

Israel targets Hamas site in Gaza

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy