Syrian girl's painting captures the horrors of the conflict

Painting by young refugee was given as a 'present' to German police officers

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The Independent Online

When a 3-year-old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi drowned in the Mediterranean Sea about three weeks ago, photos of the scene captured the world's attention — whereas the deaths of hundreds of other children had previously gone nearly unnoticed.

These days, it is again an image that seems to have struck a nerve.

When a police department in southern Germany tweeted a photo of a painting by a young Syrian refugee, it immediately went viral. "A present of a Syrian child to the police authorities in Passau. #speechless," the police department's tweet read. The image, which was posted last Thursday, has been shared by more than 8,000 people.

An orange line divides two strikingly different scenes: On the left side are the horrors of the Syrian civil war. A woman who has lost a leg walks away on crutches. Next to her, a child holds his arms above his head. Dead Syrians lie in the streets, next to destroyed buildings. At the top of the painting is a skull, and ravens fly in the sky above victims.

On the the right side, there are no destroyed homes, and people seem to be coming home from shopping. The child's illustration of refugee life in Germany is decorated with hearts thanking the German police.

German authorities did not provide any information about the identity of the refugee child, which is why some commentators questioned the drawing's authenticity. "Never would a child have painted such an image," one commentator wrote. "Moreover, children don't paint in perspective."

Such doubts reflect a growing divide within Germany: Some say that more refugees should be allowed into the country, but others are much more skeptical. Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to say refugees are welcome, especially Syrian refugees, but even members of her own party have publicly raised concerns about the influx.

Arson attacks and assaults against refugees are on the rise, as well. In the eastern German town of Heidenau, several asylum seekers were assaulted over the weekend in the city center.


Meanwhile, German authorities have publicly rebutted suggestions that the painting is a fake. Police officer Michael Piltz told the German news site Spiegel Online on Saturday that a refugee girl had presented the present to him and two of his colleagues last Monday. They did not ask the girl for her name or nationality but assumed that she must be Syrian, given that she painted the country's flag and detailed the horror there.

Police press spokesman Werner Straubinger discovered the image and asked whether he could take it, but his request was declined. His colleagues told him that "it had been given to them as a present and that it was worth a lot to them," Straubinger recalled in the conversation with  Spiegel Online. Instead of taking the painting, he posted it on Twitter.

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