With the image of the “vulnerable” refugee dominating media coverage, Syrian painter Abdalla Al Omari
wished to flip the script and show the world how powerful politicians would look like if they weren't so lucky.
Enter “The Vulnerability Series".
He initially launched the series in Brussels, Belgium, in 2016 where he was granted asylum and re-launched it in Dubai, where it ended on July 6, 2017.
Omari explained his motivations for the series:
The idea was to break their image of strength. He detailed on his blog how this made him pity even Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad, whose forces are regularly accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity:
In an interview with Belgium's De Afspraak, Omari said the “strange feeling of empathy” extended to other politicians:
Besides Assad, the series depicts US Presidents Barack Obama
and Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy
and François Hollande, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“It was my personal desire to see them in the shoes of refugees, of vulnerable
people to see them in their vulnerable
state because they always look so perfect, so divine”, he told De Afspraak.
His widely-shared image of Trump as a refugee was inspired by the story of Palestinian-Syrian refugee Abdul Halim Attar.
Attar, originally from Yarmouk camp in Damascus, and one of over a million Syrian refugees
who have fled to Lebanon, received considerable media coverage after he was seen selling pens in Beirut while carrying his daughter. The girl Trump is carrying is wearing the same clothes as Attar's daughter.
He also reproduced the infamous photo of residents of Yarmouk queuing for food in 2014:
Omari's work has garnered a lot of online attention. One video by AJ got over 12 million views. In it, he says that “those leaders were partly responsible for the displacement of Syrians. Maybe they will feel what it feels like to be vulnerable.
Mary Scully, once an independent socialist candidate for the US presidency, suggested taking the imaginary portrayal of world leaders
a step further:
This article, written by Rami Alhames, was published on Global Voices on July 11, 2017.