An Artist Is Battling ISIS Hate Speech Using Only A Paintbrush
He's not only covering up hateful vandalism—he’s replacing it with hopeful messages of progress
ISIS propaganda in Islamic countries isn’t just confined to the airwaves or print. Every day, citizens walk down streets that are marred with hateful graffiti espousing intimidating and vulgar rhetoric. Not only is it a blight on city landscapes, but the vandalism serves as a powerful reminder of the intolerance and violence that has permeated peaceful cultures.
However, as cities are liberated from the occupation of the Islamic state, residents are taking back their walls and their streets, painting over the messages left behind by occupying forces.
But Sadoun Dhanoun of Mosul isn’t just erasing the messages of hate—he’s replacing them with more progressive, loving missives. The New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi encountered Dhanoun in action and published a brief version of his story on Twitter, shown below.
1. All over liberated areas of Mosul, 1 of the 1st things people are doing is painting over ISIS graffiti. Some are… https://t.co/DBasfBmJEE— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492254843.0
2. Today I noticed this man across the street, carefully stenciling a message on this freshly painted wall. So we s… https://t.co/CBfdqzVdUi— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492254922.0
3. His name is Sadoun Dhanoun, 39. He's been hired by a senior citizen group to paint over ISIS' graffiti preaching… https://t.co/oqVuzFczl0— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492255170.0
4. This wall here used to be painted with a verse from scripture calling for violence against the kuffar, or infide… https://t.co/dUOkfmxAGY— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492255345.0
5. What I love is he didn't stop there. He went to an Internet cafe and Googled حكم ومقولات or "Wise sayings." Here… https://t.co/SLQ8Y0Kepj— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492255511.0
6. The one he chose for this wall says, "In life, be like a cube of sugar, so that when you are gone you leave a sw… https://t.co/xHWmutuBAA— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492255721.0
7. He said he found that evocative "because ISIS left everyone with a bad taste in their mouth."— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492255782.0
8. He's painting at least 7 walls in this northern suburb of Mosul with donations amounting to less than $200. So t… https://t.co/bn7ApFkOGH— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492255862.0
9. He says he's almost done with this wall and he proudly posed with the quotes & his freshly painted sign. Next he… https://t.co/QKlXYFWe1w— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492256031.0
10. His aim is to bring back beauty. It'll be so pretty when he's done, he said, maybe drivers will be distracted.… https://t.co/iUMpzTry8H— Rukmini Callimachi (@Rukmini Callimachi) 1492256221.0
Mosul has been free of ISIS occupation only since January, but other areas of Iraq are still fighting off their forces. It’s unlikely that Dhanoun’s optimistic graffiti will change the nature of the battles, but hopefully it will inspire those in his city to pick up the pieces quickly and also help ensure that something like this never happens again.