They called him "the spray man" for his graffiti that appeared all over the Syrian capital of Damascus. But in truth, 23-year-old Nour Hatem Zahra was an activist like any other activist.
He started protesting in Syria last spring. Back then, the opposition thought it would only take a few months to get rid of President Bashar Assad, as it had in Tunisia and Egypt.
Then Syrian forces started killing protesters, detaining them, torturing them. And the people started fighting back.
But still, there was Nour Hatem Zahra and his friends — organizing protests, hiding activists from the dreaded security forces, ferrying medical supplies to those who were injured but terrified to go to a government hospital.
Then late last year, Zahra got caught. Under torture, one of his friends had given up his name. Zahra later forgave the friend.
He was locked up for 56 days. As soon as he got out, he was at it again. He and his friends went around spraying the suburbs of Syria's capital, Damascus, with slogans against the Syrian president: "Down with the traitor." "To the trash heap of history." Pictures of the president with the word "pig" scrawled underneath.
A few weeks ago, Zahra and his friends declared "Freedom Graffiti Week." The Facebook page calls their work a mix of civil disobedience and peaceful expression.
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