Hani Abbas

cartoonist from Palestine and Syria, now living in Switzerland.

Hani Abbas (born 1977) is a cartoonist from Palestine and Syria, now living in Switzerland.


  • Imagine every piece you are painting could be your last piece, or maybe you will not be able to finish it. All those emotions and passion blended into me doing my best art at that time,
  • I am dreaming every day about going back to Syria … but I will never return before that criminal regime is toppled.

Interview with UNHCR (2021)

  • Yarmouk is called a camp, but it’s really a part of the city with buildings, streets, and all the normal services. Growing up there was something nice and something hard. A lot of people in a small area; many pupils in the school. We had a beautiful, funny life – hard, but beautiful. Sometimes hard memories become nice when you look back. When I remember it now, I have nostalgia about that time. I remember my friends, my neighbourhood, my street, my family home.
  • When I was a child, I loved to draw. I drew everything, and I drew on everything – I was drawing on the walls, in school textbooks, on my body - everywhere. This is a child’s job! I loved drawing and when I was in school, my art teacher supported me and entered my work in a UN children’s drawing prize which I won twice, when I was 13 and 14. Those prizes gave me the power and the belief to continue drawing – I felt like I had something to say through my drawing. You can explain your story, your feelings, your ideas.
  • when I was around 18, I started thinking about cartoons because I saw a lot in the newspapers, and on the walls of the camp. The walls were like our newspaper in the camp. Yarmouk was one big newspaper. In 1998 I published my first cartoon in a Palestinian magazine, then had exhibitions in the camp, in Damascus, Aleppo and Lebanon. I started connecting with newspapers – that’s how it goes. At the same time, I was also a teacher in an elementary school in Damascus.
  • My early cartoons were about Palestine, Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. More political than funny because it was difficult for me to draw something funny. I always go towards tragedy and darkness because I draw what I’m feeling. I’m trying to explain about myself and my people.
  • I’m still drawing now. Drawing in a safe place like Switzerland is good, you have total freedom. But you lose the sense of danger, the challenge. For me I did my best drawings under the bombs. I lost a big part of my power when I left Syria, but I still have the power of memory.
  • I moved many times in Syria starting from March 2011 until December 2012 when I left. The last six months were very difficult to live under the bombs all the time. At that time, we would hear three sounds. The first was the sound of the shell when it was launched. The second was the sound of the shell above us in the sky. The third sound was the sound the of the explosion on the ground, or in a building. I was drawing all the time, but when I heard that first sound, I would lift my pencil and wait, thinking: ‘maybe this is my last drawing’. If I heard the third sound, that meant I was still alive. I’m lucky because I always heard all three sounds, but many thousands of Syrian people around me never heard the third sound.
  • Before, my family was all in the same place, now everyone is spread around the world. I’m here in Switzerland, in Geneva, my brother is in Cologne in Germany, my parents and two other brothers are in Sweden, and another brother is in Madrid, in Spain. It’s not easy to connect with them. It’s good we have social media and video calls, but it’s not the same. My kids are speaking French now, my brother’s kids are speaking German, Swedish, another Spanish. When they meet now it’s not easy to connect with so many languages, different cultures, different educations. We will lose our family tree. The branches have been cut off and are drifting down the river in different directions. But Switzerland is very good for my kids, without any problems and without any bad memories, without any dangers in the future. For me, it’s okay. I’m working here, I’m still drawing, I’m feeling good – life is good – but the memories occupy my mind all the time.
  • I’ve drawn other figures who have left everything else behind but take a window with them, because the window is their memory. I have my own ideas and feelings about the images, but I hope everyone who looks at them can see the effect of war on people.
  • I hope all the people who have problems in their countries can get out. I support people who want to get out if they have dreams, if they want to protect their kids.
  • Sometimes, to make a little bit of change in people’s lives they just need a tent or a little bit of food, a bit of support or a little education.
  • When you have a cause, the best way to express yourself is artistically
  • I have great hope for the E-revolution … Twitter and Facebook are marvelous inventions and I use them to spread my work. I hope Palestinians will use these tools to gain their right of return.
  • The tools of oppression have evolved over two years of warfare, from the police baton to gas.
  • I’m only showing the harsh reality of the situation. I would love to show happy kids playing but this is not what is happening. At moments like these as I draw I am also crying.
  • All the regimes in the world have taken advantage of the Palestinian situation. The Arabs have exploited it to cement their authority and the West has taken advantage economically. Everyone has played around with us. When you’re a card, you can never fully know who’s holding you.
  • There is a big difference between revolution against oppression and terrorist activity. Revolution is among the most honorable things to sacrifice for. It doesn’t thrive on oppression and the murders of innocents. Whoever does this is preventing progress in their community.
  • The silence of the international community in these situations allows terror to thrive … as educated people we have a duty to stand against this type of terror and those who support it.
  • Firstly, I’m a human being. There’s no massive difference between a Syrian and a Palestinian in Syria. This is why I’m not surprised to see Palestinians fighting on both sides—most have tried to stay neutral, but all have been affected by the cycle of war.
  • The expansion of [Israeli] settlement and the arrest of activists does not make me optimistic about real peace anytime soon. Everyone suffers from this political stupidity.” Hani adds, “The problem in these situations is never the people—it’s always the leaders who guide policy.
  • The future is mysterious,” he says. “Now we’re seeing an entire generation lost to war. My hopes for the future are not personal; they’re for my people. My hopes are for peace, and only for peace. I’m married to a Syrian woman and our son carries two nations in his heart.