‘I did not flee’ – Raqqa sculptor shares how he preserved his art under IS

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Syrian sculptor Jomaa Saied Al-Hammo’s story is an example of how art endures. The artist defied harsh conditions in order to preserve the cultural and artistic heritage of his city by continuing to work even when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) took over Raqqa.

Al-Hammo is considered to be one of the first sculptors in Raqqa and is a member of the Union of Arab Artists since the eighties. He also took part in many exhibitions inside and outside Syria.

Al-Hammo worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, participated in the rehabilitation of antiquities and designs, then returned to Syria in 2010, where he witnessed all the difficult events in his country.

The sculptor lived through the period during which Raqqa was taken over by Islamic State, and told Ruptly on Friday how he managed to save his work, despite being arrested several times and a large number of his art pieces being seized.

“I was afraid at night that they would come suddenly. Of course, when they came, they confiscated the deeds. I was condemned to retribution, and by the power of God, they left me to flee, but I did not flee,” he said.

“Then the [IS] ameer traveled to an area called Al-Kobr, in which he was killed after a day or two, I do not remember how it happened, when they told me and I went to see them, they told me [ISIS ameer] Abu al-Laith was killed. And in my heart, I said thank God, we got rid of the word retribution at least because he was intimidating me,” he recounted.

After the liberation of the city, Jomaa Saied Al-Hammo has continued to work on his sculptures.

Video ID: 20200522-025

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