Rebels want Assad hung by a rope, but in the meantime the will have to compromise on strings: A group of anonymous Syrian artists have begun uploading a satirical internet program documenting the Syrian crisis in the form of a marionette theater.
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The group calls itself Massasit Matti after a popular Syrian caffeine-rich beverage frequently drunk at social gatherings. The name is meant to symbolize solidarity among all of Syria through the symbol of the social gathering and the drink that serves as its classless focal point.
The show, which is the crown jewel of the diverse and multidisciplinary group, began at first as an attempt to promote non-violent resistance against Assad and encourage the more artistic part of Syrian opposition to partake in the revolution through artistic expression.
The show's main character, Beeshu, is a reckless dictator with a long nose and big ears. He is surrounded by evil minions who attack brave Syrians.
The show first began airing during the autumn of 2011 and has since gone on to become very popular with more than 200,000 views on its YouTube page. Its popularity prompted an opposition-affiliated, Dubai-based channel to pick it up and begin broadcasting the show nationwide.
The popularity has also garnered the show its first spinoff, also produced by the group, which ran for two seasons under the name The First Shabich, with the last word referencing Assad's shabicha forces, a semi-official militia of violent hooligans who terrorize Assad's opponents and have been credited with some of the worst atrocities the Syrian conflict has seen.
The artists began filming the show in Lebanon with equipment they managed to smuggle from Syria.
During the episode a protester being interviewed by one such channel is forced to admit that he is in fact a violent criminal: "I am holding in my hand an olive branch… I mean an RPG missile… I mean an atomic bomb… I mean guns and rifles I got from al-Qaeda."
However, the show has not spared the Syrian opposition. In one of the episodes, Beeshu (Assad) can be seen torturing and ridiculing a protester, until the latter succeeds in freeing himself and revengefully attacks Beeshu. Afterwards, Beeshu tells the protester: "You see, you are a monster, just like me."
Last January, the group returned to Syria to perform the puppet show live in areas under rebel control, mostly in the northern Aleppo region.
When they arrived at the town of Manbaj where local activists had organized a festival, the town was attacked by Assad's forces, a surprise considering the town had been mostly conflict free until then. Twelve people and dozens of others were wounded during the attack.
Jamil, the group's manager, said that because of the attack, the group was forced to cut down their performance to only a few scenes.
Next week, the group will get a chance to perform their work on the international stage, when they will take part in the Arab culture theater festival – Shubbak – in London.
In the meantime, despite their poor luck last time, the group plans to return to Syria to perform for rebels and local artists in the Aleppo region.
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