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Aylan Kurdi graffiti defaced

Manasi Gopalakrishnan
June 23, 2016

Earlier this year, two German artists painted a huge picture of the drowned child by a riverbank in Frankfurt to create awareness about refugee issues. But suspected right-wingers have destroyed the graffiti.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Arnold

The four-year-old refugee boy died last year as his family tried to cross the Aegean Sea to Europe. A picture of his dead body washed ashore on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, created a stir worldwide, prompting people to ponder the extent of the refugee crisis.

This year in March, German artists Oguz Sen and Justus Becker decided to paint a mural in their home town of Frankfurt. "We paint political images and we got the idea to make a picture of Aylan," Becker told DW.

Despite their seriousness, events like the boy's drowning tended to fade out of public memory, said Becker, who also goes by the name of COR, adding, "We wanted to make something that would last."

After much discussion and a vote at the local community elections, Becker and Sen got a wall by the Main River all to themselves, and the 20-meter-wide and six-meter-tall graffiti was born.

Deutschland Graffiti mit Abbildung von Alan Kurdi, ertrunkenes Flüchtlingskind
The painting can be seen from the European Central Bank's headquarters in FrankfurtImage: Getty Images/AFP/D. Roland

Vandals deface painting

The painting was completed in March, but it did not take vandals very long to spoil it. "Shortly after we finished, somebody sprayed paint on the mural," Becker said, but because of its size, one could hardly make out that something was wrong.

The worst was, however, yet to come. This week, suspected right-wing activists destroyed the painting, spraying "Borders protect lives" all over it. The words were a reference to comments made by far-right movements, including PEGIDA, which have canvassed for sealing the EU's frontiers in order to prevent refugees from illegally crossing into Europe and risking being shot by border guards.

Beside the slogan, in smaller letters, were the words, "F*ck the antifa," - a reference to militant anti-fascist organizations. Frankfurt police said they were looking for possible culprits and examining whether they could formally file a case, police spokeswoman Virginie Wegner told journalists.

No time to cry

The defacement received varied responses by social media users, for example on Twitter. This user said it was a shame that "racists" did not even leave the dead alone.

But this person was clearly supporting the defacers, saying, "Unknown persons deface Aylan painting - finally! This propaganda of leftist lies is shameful."

Becker himself was "upset and disappointed" when he saw what had happened to the mural. But it didn't take him and his colleague Sen long to begin gathering funds for painting a new Aylan mural. Frankfurt's residents have been more than willing to come out and help, he said.

"This is a sign that Aylan's picture touches Frankfurt's residents emotionally and is also a memorial picture for them," Becker told DW.

He and his artist friend Sen needed 500 euros worth of paints and material to draw the picture. Every extra cent collected would be sent to an organization working with refugees in Greece, he said.

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