Artist Biography – Thaer Abdallah

Thaer, 40, is a Palestinian artist and human rights activist who was born in Iraq and grew up in Baghdad. Palestinians are an ethnic minority in Iraq who have lived there for sixty years, but have neither citizenship nor freedom. Since 2003, they have been targeted by various militias and have suffered kidnapping, torture, imprisonment and assassination.

In 2005, Thaer led a number of threatened Palestinian families out of Iraq and lived with them in a refugee camp in Syria. He created many paintings in the camp, painting on black velvet because canvas was not available. In 2007, Syrian secret police imprisoned and tortured him and deported him back to Iraq. He fled again, and finally arrived in the U.S. to begin a new life in April 2008.

Thaer has painted and drawn since he was a child. He recalls, “I discovered that art was a world so much larger than the one room which I shared with my parents and twelve siblings. I drew on everything – the windows, the walls, the door – to my mother’s dismay!”

Thaer’s paintings express the pain and also the beauty and strength of the Palestinian community in Baghdad and of those scattered as refugees in many corners of the world. His paintings of U.S. subjects reflect awareness of those on the margins of the society in which he now finds himself.

Since arriving in Boston he has studied painting at the Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. His work has been shown locally at the Out of the Blue Gallery, the Paulist Center, the Middle East Restaurant, 1369 Coffeeshop, and Andala Restaurant. His credo – “Life does not stop, and it is still beautiful.”

Thaer painting in the Al Hol Refugee Camp, Syria, 2006
Thaer painting in the Al Hol Refugee Camp, Syria, 2006