This is the Palestinian artist behind the powerful portraits you’ve been seeing all over Instagram

Shirien Damra is the Palestinian artist using social media to raise awareness. (Instagram/@shirien.creates)
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Updated 01 June 2020

This is the Palestinian artist behind the powerful portraits you’ve been seeing all over Instagram

DUBAI: On February 23, a black American man named Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while on a run in his Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood. The unarmed 25-year-old was reportedly killed by a former police officer and his son. 

Upon hearing about Arbery’s tragic death, 33-year-old freelance artist Shirien Darma sought to honor Arbery and show solidarity with the black community through her art. “I was afraid that people would only see the video and remember his soul being taken away from him,” the artist told “I wanted to not only have the art for myself to process, but also in the hopes that other people that are facing similar things can identify with it and help them process, too.”



Today, a disturbing video surfaced of the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud was murdered over two months ago in Georgia when he was chased and gunned down by two white men claiming they were conducting a citizen’s arrest for a burglary. Ahmaud was simply just going for a run. I haven’t seen the video because I can’t get myself to. Just hearing the story of his murder brought me to tears. Tears of anger and sadness. No one deserves to be killed for running on the basis of their skin color. May Ahmaud rest in power. May he and his loved ones see justice somehow. Say his name. #ahmaudarbery #irunwithmaud #justiceforahmaud #blacklivesmatter

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The Palestinian-American artist went on to create a portrait of the deceased man against a moss green and floral backdrop with the words “Justice for Ahmaud” written above his head. The digital illustration, which she posted on social media, has garnered almost 400,000 likes since its time of posting, and has been widely shared on the platform.



Yesterday, in yet another act of anti-black police violence causing mass outrage, George Floyd yelled “I can’t breathe” and pleaded for his life as a white Minneapolis police officer violently pinned him down with his knee on his neck. George died after. He was murdered in broad daylight. His death is reminiscent of the death of Eric Garner. Even with a crowd yelling at him to stop and while folks filmed the murder, the cop did it anyway, showing the massive injustice, zero accountability and white supremacy embedded in the “criminal justice” system. Heartbroken, angry and disgusted. This must end. Much love and solidarity to Black communities grieving another beautiful life lost. May George Floyd Rest in Power. Text ‘Floyd’ to 55156 to demand the officers be charged with murder. You can also call Mayor Jacob Frey at (612)-673-2100, DA Mike Freeman at (612)-348-5550 and demand justice. #blacklivesmatter #georgefloyd #icantbreathe #justiceforgeorgefloyd

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In the following weeks, she made similar digital portraits after the deaths of African-Americans Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, who were also killed at the hands of the police. Her illustration of Floyd was re-posted by several celebrities, including French-Tunisian model and singer Sonia Ben Ammar, and has garnered over three million likes.

As the daughter of Palestinian Muslim immigrants, Damra is highly conscious of the issues of racism and oppression, so she makes sure to use her art as a tool to raise awareness. Damra’s Instagram account features art in support a variety of causes including Indigenous Peoples' Day, International Women's Day and coronavirus frontline workers.



Our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physician assistants, patient care techs and others who work in medicine are being stretched beyond the limit during this COVID-19 pandemic. They are working with limited masks, gloves, ventilators, test kits and hospital beds. They are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk to save ours. It’s our duty to care for them. The best and most effective way to do this is to stay quarantined and slow the spread of coronavirus so they can be able to take care of the sick and also take time to take care of themselves. Please stay home. Advocate for them to get their needs met. Sending prayers and good vibes to our homies on the frontlines defending us from collapse

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Arab movies to debut at Toronto International Film Festival

Updated 03 August 2020

Arab movies to debut at Toronto International Film Festival

DUBAI: Organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have released a new lineup of 50 movies for screening at this year’s event including a number of Arabic flicks.

Egyptian filmmaker Mayye Zayed’s “Ash Ya Captain” (“Lift Like a Girl”), an intimate journey into the life of an aspiring athlete, will premiere at the 45th edition of the festival, due to take place between Sept. 10 and 20.

Also featured will be Palestinian filmmaking twins Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s “Gaza Mon Amour,” a satire on love and desire. The brothers’ second feature film, it tells the tale of a 60-year-old fisherman who is secretly in love with a market dressmaker. As the story unfolds, the fisherman discovers an ancient Greek statue that will trouble him.

British director Ben Sharrock’s “Limbo” will see Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry star as a Syrian asylum-seeker who finds himself living on a small Scottish island.

Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry stars in British director Ben Sharrock’s “Limbo.” (Toronto International Film Festival)

Meanwhile, American director Spike Lee’s film version of David Byrne’s hit Broadway show “American Utopia” will open at the event which will be capped off by American-Indian director Mira Nair’s “A Suitable Boy.”

In addition, there will be showings of Iranian directors Manijeh Hekmat’s “Bandar Band” and Farnoosh Samadi’s “180 Degree Rule.”

Most screenings will take place virtually due to government restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s artistic director, said in a released statement: “We began this year planning for a festival much like our previous editions, but along the way we had to rethink just about everything.

“This year’s line-up reflects that tumult. The names you already know are doing brand-new things this year, and there’s a whole crop of exciting new names to discover.”

The full schedule of the festival will be released on Aug. 25.