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Dramatic Syrian art installation in central Dresden enrages far right

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Dramatic Syrian art installation in central Dresden enrages far right
Manaf Halbouni's "Monument" in Dresden. Photo: DPA
15:24 CET+01:00
A Syrian-born artist was on Tuesday to open an eye-catching installation in Germany - three passenger buses placed vertically like sniper barricades - but the artwork has drawn fierce criticism from far-right groups.

Dubbed "Monument", the mega-sculpture in the eastern city of Dresden aims to evoke the barricades set up in the war-torn eastern city of Aleppo and the suffering of the people of Syria, the birthplace of artist Manaf Halbouni.

The artwork symbolises "peace, freedom and humanity," the 32-year-old, who is also a German citizen, told national news agency DPA.

"There is no other political message. It's a peace memorial, a modern Statue of Liberty."

Using two mobile cranes, it was set up ahead of next Monday's annual memorial day that recalls the World War II bombardment of the Baroque city that killed some 25,000 people on February 13-14, 1945.

While many mark the anniversary by remembering the suffering the Nazi regime inflicted on the world, far-right revisionists have used the day to paint Germany as the victim of foreign aggression.

Dresden-based Halbouni said "Monument" - erected outside the rebuilt Frauenkirche church, itself a symbol of rebirth from war - is meant to instill hope, both in Dresden and Aleppo, and signify that "life goes on, despite all the destruction".

As the installation was set up on Monday, city mayor Dirk Hilbert Hilbert hailed Halbouni's artistic statement as "important for the city".

But Dresden's far-right Pegida movement - short for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident - dubbed the project "idiotic".

Anonymous criticism posted online has been far harsher, and police have investigated death threats against supporters of the project, including the mayor who has been assigned police guards.

And the rightwing anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party denounced it as political propaganda and an "abuse of artistic freedom" geared to "provoke" Pegida followers.

Local AfD activist Karin Wilke demanded that the Frauenkirche be spared from "being overshadowed by scrap metal" in a post-modern art installation that she branded "an assault on our identity".

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