RAMALLAH, West Bank — On Rakib Street in downtown Ramallah, a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad occupies a corner of the sidewalk. For nearly a week, it has been a point of controversy among passersby. Some approach the drawing, take a closer look, and then direct words of either admiration or scathing criticism at the artist, Abdul Hadi Yaish. Meanwhile, others take it upon themselves to write comments on the blank space of the painting.
"The portrait transforms into a place for heated debate among passersby. Two days ago, an argument between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime nearly turned into a fistfight," said Hadi, who has turned Rakib Street into a place to display his artwork in the open air for nearly three years.