‘Freedom Hospital,’ Debut Syrian Graphic Novel ‘Being Acclaimed in France and Germany’

Images from Hamid Sulaiman’s graphic-novel debut — released this month in Paris — are on display at Galerie Crone in Berlin through June 18, 2016:

arton139-056acIn both Paris and Berlin, AFP reports that the Syrian artist’s first book is being met with acclaim.

Sulaiman’s story centers around a clandestine “Freedom Hospital,” founded by a peace activist named Yasmine in an unnamed Syrian city. In addition to Yasmine, there are ten other characters living in the hospital, both the sick and their caregivers, reflecting different segments of Syrian society: a Kurd, an Alawite, a Franco-Syrian journalist, members of the Free Syrian Army, and a radical Islamist.

But not all the blame is placed with Syrians. Sulaiman told AFP that he took care to “always note where all the weaponry comes from — Russia, the US, France… because war is a business too[.]”

According to the website Artitious, Sulaiman has been working on the comic since he fled Damascus in 2011 — after spending a week in prison and being unexpectedly released.

AFP calls the novel “[b]y turns harrowing, heart-breaking and funny,” and says the book is dedicated to the author’s “best friend Hussam Khayat who was tortured to death by Bashar al-Assad’s secret police three years ago.”

“‘Freedom Hospital’ is my point of view,” Sulaiman told AFP. “I don’t try to be neutral and I cannot be. This is a homage to the people who have tried to do something, to help others.”

Erika Clugston noted, in her review of the graphic-novel art, which is in display in Berlin, that “the speech bubbles in the comic-style drawings have been left without text for the purposes of the exhibition, allowing the images to speak for themselves. In the empty speech bubbles we can imagine the words exchanged between characters and relate to their situations as we fill in our own text.”