Watch the video above: More than 130 international humanitarian organizations want to know if you’ll “stand with Syria.”
The British graffiti artist known as Banksy has made a name for himself around the world for his subversively stenciled street art, but the anonymous artist is loaning his moniker and style to support Syrians affected by the country’s brutal civil war.
The conflict’s third anniversary is being marked around the world with online and on-the-ground vigils to “stand with Syria.”
Banksy’s famous Balloon Girl stencil, which first appeared in London in 2002, has been transformed to resemble a Syrian girl letting go of heart-shaped red balloon on the artist’s website and appears along with an explanation of how graffiti figured into the Syrian crisis, as civil uprising transformed into a conflict that has left more than 100,000 people dead.
“On the 6th March 2011 in the Syrian town of Daraa, fifteen children were arrested and tortured for painting anti-authoritarian graffiti,” a statement on Banksy’s website reads. “The protests that followed their detention led to an outbreak of violence across the country that would see a domestic uprising transform into a civil war displacing 9.3 million people from their homes.”
Banksy’s cooperation with the project, backed by more than 100 international non-government and humanitarian organizations, also extended to a video showing animated Banksy-inspired renderings of scenes of war.
The video, narrated by actor Idris Elba and set to the music of the band Elbow, calls on people to show support for an end to the war.
“On March 15th, 2014, the world will wake up to the third anniversary of the bloody conflict,” Elba says in his narration, before facts and figures about the conflict appear on screen. “Will we let the people of Syria lose another year to bloodshed and suffering? Will you stand with Syria?”
That call to action asks for light vigils – using candles, projections or any other light source – to be held at sunset on Thursday, or any time in the run-up to Saturday’s anniversary, and to share photos and video of the ceremonies on social media with the hashtag #WithSyria.
Here are a few images from vigils around the world shared on Twitter and Instagram. Story continues below.
The goal, according to the #WithSyria website, is to get leaders to commit to peace talks that include civil society and women’s groups, to ensure that life-saving humanitarian assistance can reach those who need it and to demand that “laws of war” be respected by ending attacks on civilian institutions such as hospitals and schools not be the target of attacks.
There are reportedly 35 countries where vigils are set to take place. One such event, organized by the humanitarian organization Save the Children, took place in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where Syrian children viewed the video and released red heart balloons.
Just 10 kilometres from the Syrian border, Zaatari camp has become the makeshift home for 120,000 people who have fled the war – a fraction of the more than 2.5 million people who have been forced to leave the country for the sake of their lives and those of their families, 584,000 to Jordan alone.
The United Nations has made an unprecedented appeal for international assistance to respond to the crisis, aiming for $6.5 billion in further humanitarian aid to help displaced Syrians.