The diplomatic wrangling over Syria is a story with which many readers have grown tired. But a French journalist is hoping to buck the trend by portraying the UN’s failure to broker a peace deal through an unlikely medium – the graphic novel.
RFI reporter Karim Lebhour moved to New York from Paris shortly before the Syrian conflict broke out.
Reporting from the United Nations, Lebhour followed more than a hundred Security Council meetings and countless press briefings on the Syrian crisis – each time growing more frustrated at his inability to tell the full story in his radio reports.
So he teamed up with two French illustrators to create the graphic novel, "Syrie, le veto de l’ONU" (Syria: the UN's veto), published in the spring issue of the French-language magazine, "La Revue dessinée".
Lebhour’s satirical novel paints a colourful picture of the often faceless United Nations, lending a human side to the global organisation.
“At the UN most things happen behind the scenes,” Lebhour told FRANCE 24. “Closed consultations of the Security Council; diplomats speaking off the record in the corridors... In a graphic novel it’s much easier to recreate the scene.”
The UN ambassadors depicted in the often sardonic novel seem somewhat resigned to the fact that despite three gruelling years of briefings, negotiations and inconclusive resolutions, the UN has failed to mediate an end to the devastating war in Syria.
'A little over the top'
“When you ridicule diplomats, well, they deserve it,” France's UN Ambassador Gérard Araud told Lebhour after a first glance at the book. “But I don’t think they are ridiculous… They’re doing their best.”
As for the suggestion that Lebhour could be perceived as making light of the Syria situation by depicting it in a graphic novel, Araud disagreed. “It’s very serious at times, and you also show the suffering of the Syrian people,” the ambassador told the RFI reporter.
UN Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal was less impressed. “Some of the depictions go a little bit over the top," he told FRANCE 24, though he acknowledged that it was "a way of introducing the story and making it interesting.”
Launsky-Tieffenthal also defended the global organisation as the main protector of the Syrian people. “The UN is the only institution worldwide that looks after 10 million refugees and internally displaced Syrians,” he said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is depicted as expressionless and impotent, has not commented on the novel.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is determined to knock this uprising on the head in the same way his father, Hafez al-Assad, dealt with a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in 1982. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “So taking into account the 120 meetings we’ve had on Syria, that makes around 1,000 deaths per meeting…” © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
Niet, or Nyet, means “No” in Russian - a reference to Russia’s veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council, which makes it almost impossible for the Security Council to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
For Paris, Washington and London, the Syrian crisis serves as an opportunity to show their support for the Arab Spring, and allow their support for certain dictators in the region to be forgotten. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
UN observers in Syria are forced to stay in their hotel after an angry crowd attacks a patrol in Haffa. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
Ban Ki-moon, portrayed here as consistently expressionless despite varying denunciations, is criticised by Human Rights Watch for his quiet diplomacy. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
On August 21 a chemical weapons attack devastated the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, killing 1429 people according to US intelligence reports. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
"You heard the UN, huh? No chemical weapons!", says one rebel fighter in Ghouta, referring to the Security Council's failure to agree on a unanimous condemnation of the deadly attack. © Karim Lebhour/ James and Thierry Martin.
Date created : 2014-03-28