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US-Sanctioned Syrian Businessman Brings Back 'British Statue' to Damascus

US-Sanctioned Syrian Businessman Brings Back 'British Statue' to Damascus

Thursday, 24 September, 2020 - 08:15
The horse-head statue installed in the center of Damascus (Photo: Damascus Governorate)

Syrian businessman Wassim Kattan, whose name is on the US sanctions list, returned a horse-head statue – a smaller version of the famous British sculpture - to the square in central Damascus, hours after it was removed.

The 40-meter square, close to the Presidential Palace in Al-Rawda, underwent renovation works that lasted for six months. The square was decorated with a miniature version of the sculpture of the British artist Nic Fiddian-Green, who executed the original sculpture of a horse drinking water in 2011.

On Tuesday, the Damascus governorate announced the reinstallation of the sculpture in Syriatel Square in Al-Maliki neighborhood. The media office in the province said that the statue, which was placed on Sunday and removed the next day, was returned on Tuesday “after fixing some issues.”

Wassim Kattan, the head of the Damascus Countryside Chamber of Commerce and the candidate for the Damascus Chamber of Commerce elections, was the first to announce the return of the sculpture that was executed upon his request. He had earlier published a post on his Facebook page, in which he talked about the art work that has been copied in many countries around the world.

Sources said that Kattan, born in Damascus in 1976, was behind the initiative to rehabilitate the Syriatel Square, which began six months ago. Sculptor Hussam Fouad Jounoud, a former professor at the College of Fine Arts, was commissioned to create a miniature copy of the horse-head statue in London.

The Syriatel banner was removed from the square following a dispute between the company’s main shareholder, Rami Makhlouf, and his cousin, President Bashar Al-Assad.

Sources suggested that Kattan’s renovation of the square “is a prelude to proposing his name as an alternative to Makhlouf, especially since he is a candidate for the presidency of the Damascus Chamber of Commerce.”

The US Treasury Department had named Kattan on the second sanctions list under the Caesar Act issued last June. The Treasury Department’s statement indicated that Kattan, whose name first appeared in the Syrian business world in 2017, has several contracts with the Syrian government to develop a shopping mall and hotels in Damascus.

Despite the artistic features of the sculpture which were recognized by many artists, the timing of the installation was provocative, as it came amid a severe gasoline crisis that paralyzed the regime-controlled areas since the beginning of September, in addition to the deteriorating economic situation in many Syrian governorates.

An architect in an interior architecture and decoration company considered spending money on revamping the square amid the economic blockade and hunger “a rude and provocative behavior...”

“We are not well and Syria is not well,” he said.

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