Syrian graphic novelist Hamid Sulaiman: ‘I don't present villains or heroes’

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The author of Freedom Hospital on dealing with the trauma of war in exile, the late friend his book is dedicated to, and why he still has hope

Hamid Sulaiman was born in Damascus in 1986 to a middle-class family and studied architecture before the civil war began in 2011. Having fled the country for Egypt, then Paris, he began working on his first graphic novel, Freedom Hospital, which was published in France last year and has just been translated into English. Strikingly drawn in black and white, it centres on a clandestine hospital set up by a young woman, Yasmin, in the early days of the Arab spring and tells the story of the doctors, patients and revolutionaries who shelter there. Sulaiman now lives in Berlin and is finishing his second book.

How long did you stay in Syria after the conflict began?
Six months. I was one of the young guys who had a lot of hopes for the Arab spring. And even though a lot of people don’t believe in it any more, even though the reality is really shocking, I still hold on to this dream.

The graphic novel is a good way of meeting other cultures and communicating experiences, especially in tough situations

Related: The 13-year-old Syrian refugee who became a prizewinning poet

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