Before the War

From a painter who inspired a street art movement in Yemen, to a singer who found his place in the death metal scene in Syria, and a young woman who forged a path as an artisan in Afghanistan, meet three people whose worlds were changed by conflict in Before The War, an audio and comic series with illustrator @thefakepan. Hear the artists' stories in three special bonus episodes of the IWM Institute's Conflict of Interest podcast.

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Conflict of Interest | Before The War

Before The War Episode 1: Afghanistan, with Samira Kitman

Calligrapher and miniaturist Samira Kitman discovered art as a young woman, enabling her to travel the world before threats to her freedom and fear of violence forced her to flee her home. Hear her story in this special episode of our Conflict of Interest podcast.

Before the War Episode 2: Yemen, with Murad Subay

Artist Murad Subay tells his story of Yemen before the war, finding art as a teenager before sparking a street art movement that saw men, women and children painting the streets of their homes.

Before the War Episode 3: Syria, with Jake Shuker

Singer & guitarist Jake Shuker was nine when he first discovered death metal, despite the genre being banned in Syria. From that moment on he was hooked. He formed death metal band Maysaloon as a teenager living in Damascus, before being forced to leave the city as war escalated around him.

Meet The Artists

  • Before The War with Samira Kitman

    An artist and entrepreneur from Kabul, Samira learned her craft with NGO Turquoise Mountain. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London to the Smithsonian in Washington. She was once voted Afghan Businesswoman of the Year and in 2016 featured in We Are Afghan Women, a book by former American first lady Laura Bush.


  • Murad Subay comic panel 1

    A political activist and artist from Sanaa, Murad is mostly known for his work as a street artist. He launched his first campaign "Colour The Walls Of Your Street" in 2012. At first he painted alone, but following call outs on social media, men, women and children began to join in and paint with him. He has since launched several campaigns in Yemen and in Europe, and his work has been exhibited at museums worldwide including at IWM North, which displayed "Devoured" as part of Yemen: Inside A Crisis in 2019.

  • Jake Shuker - slide 1

    A death metal musician from Syria, Jake is lead singer of the band Maysaloon. Blending heavy metal with oriental influences and mythology to create their unique style, the band describes their music as 'a defiant response to the horrors of the Syrian war'. Jake was the first death metal artist to perform live at IWM London in 2019 and is now based in Lebanon, Beirut.

A collaboration between:

  • Conflict of Interest Podcast Series

    Conflict of Interest

    Created by the IWM Institute, Conflict of Interest is a podcast series unpacking the world's most complex conflicts in under an hour.

  • Pan Cooke - comic artist

    Pan Cooke

    Cartoonist and illustrator whose work raises awareness of social justice issues. The IWM Institute teamed up with Pan to transform each episode of Before The War into comic book form.

More From IWM

David David Cotterrell, Gateway II, 2009 Courtesy of Danielle Arnaud Gallery and the artist
© David Cotterrell / Danielle Arnaud Gallery

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British troops on patrol in Nowzad, Helmand, Afghanistan, July 2006.
© IWM HTF-2006-043-398

Handing Over Security In Afghanistan

Since 2001, British and coalition troops of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have fought a complex and costly war in Afghanistan. Between 2006 and 2012 – when Taliban fighters were most active – the fighting was intense.