While the conflict in Syria is escalating and Syrian troops have been battling rebels in Damascus and Aleppo, a group of 10 Syrian artists launched the first episode of their new online satirical series Top Goon. The popular online puppet show uses humor and black comedy to ridicule president Bashar Al-Assad and poses a challenge to his regime.
Ever since the Syrian artists and cultural activists launched the first series of the finger puppet show called ‘Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator’ on YouTube in December 2011, it has been viewed 175.000 times and liked by half a million people on Facebook.
The theatre group call themselves Masasit Mati, after the straw used to drink Mati, a popular herbal tea in Syria now unavailable due to economic sanctions. The first successful series of 13 episodes is being continued by a new series of 15 weekly videos. A new episode will be uploaded every Friday on YouTube and Vimeo by Masasit Mati. Through the tiny finger puppets, satire is used as a way to spread the message of peace and non-violence, to foster democratic debate and reduce sectarian tensions.
In an interview with The Global Post, Masasit Mati’s director Jamil explains: “Comedy strips things bare and gives you the strength to fight. Of course, with black comedy the laughter gets stuck in your throat. It makes you laugh and cry at same time. But we will not allow the regime to turn us into victims that just cry and stay at home all the time.”
The Top Goon series is an excellent example of the role that art and music play in conflict. It supports the right of freedom of expression and focuses attention on the abuse of general human rights, conflict situations and political issues. In line with its Expression and Engagement program, Hivos supports Top Goon – Diaries of a Little Dictator Series 2 because it promotes a message of non-violence, poses a challenge to dictatorship; and uses art and satire to communicate a message of non-sectarianism and the need for the protests to remain peaceful.