Yemen’s Banksy Uses Street Art to Fight Sectarian Violence

Murad Subay’s designs bring much-needed attention to the drone strikes, corruption, and violent political chaos that has plagued the tiny Middle Eastern nation.

While elusive British artist Banksy has kept a rather low profile since his controversial New York City residency in 2013, his “Middle Eastern counterpart” has been causing quite a stir. Murad Subay, a 27-year-old painter and former literature major from Yemen, has been making waves online and on the streets of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, with his politically-charged, crowd-generated murals. The city, which in recent years has seen numerous sectarian clashes, is a landscape of telltale bullet holes and battle-weathered buildings. As part of Subay’s creative call-to-action, he has spearheaded 2,000 murals across Sana’a and beyond in just over two years, inviting others to join and help in their creation.

“My campaigns would not be anything without other people,” he told OZY. “Even soldiers put their weapons down and took brushes instead.”

Often ironic in message, referring to incendiary issues like drone strikes and Yemen’s “disappeared” in irreverent tones and vibrant hues, his art may be reminiscent of Banksy but his tactics are fairly different. While there is currently an international manhunt on to locate and unmask the mysterious British artist, Subay works in broad daylight, and has frequently been photographed in action. Even more surprisingly, the government has done very little to censor or stop him.

One of the 2,000 political murals Subay has created throughout Yemen.

“Yemen used to be a great civilization and now is at the worst point in its history,” the artist remarked to Ozy. In the last decade, the tiny peninsula country has become an Al Qaeda stronghold and a target of repeated U.S. drone strikes, a recurring motif in his work.

Subay was originally spurred to action by the rampant corruption and economic chaos he saw during the turmoil of 2011, when Yemen hovered at the brink of total civil war. During this time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to step down to make way for Prime Minister, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Many of the artist’s murals have dealt with drone strikes, a frequent occurance in Yemen. Recently, there was widespread outrage after a US drone killed 12 guests en route to a wedding party in the al-Baydah province.

“I thought, ‘Going to the street to throw stones is not enough, we won’t change anything. So what can I do? I can paint!’’’ said Subay. “I don’t need an hour-long lecture to convey a message, with street art I only need a split second.”

For his first project, Color the Walls of Your Street, Subay used social media to bring together a crowd to cover over “the scars of the clashes” in paint. Hundreds turned out, and a wave of brightly colored, flowered murals calling for peace soon appeared all over Sana’a. Subay was also encouraged to bring his murals to other cities in Yemen, including Aden, Taizz, Ebb and Hodeidah, often painting over hate-filled political sloganeering spray-painted on walls and streets.

Subay began drawing in 2001. His first artistic campaign Color the Walls of Your Street was launched right after 2012’s conflicts in Sana’a. ​

Emboldened, he created The Walls Remember Their Faces, a series of portraits that draw attention to the many journalists, politicians, writers and activists who disappeared during Saleh’s regime. Believed kidnapped or killed, the official number is 102, but there are quite possibly many more.

From The Walls Remember Their Faces series.

A crowd gathers to help Subay with his work.

“Terrorism and sectarianism had never been a problem in Yemen,” said Subay. “Now they’re growing stronger every day.” Currently, the weakened government has been left powerless to fight Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has taken control of the eastern province of Hadramawt and imposed Sharia law.

In addition to drone strikes and sectarianism, Subay has also tackled gun control, child recruitment and corruption; projects that helped him win the “Art for Peace Award” from the Italian Veronesi Foundation this year. Subay has also received an offer of support from the United Nations, but declined in order to maintain autonomy. Instead, he accepts only the support of friends, family, and local fans, further fueling his sense of collective action, which leaves him “inspired rather than discouraged.”


The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.


Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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