Thaer, 40, is a Palestinian artist and human rights activist who was born 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 attacked by various militias and have suffered kidnapping, torture, imprisonment and assassination. Thaer is a human rights worker and torture survivor. He led a number of refugee families out of Iraq in 2005 and lived with them in a refugee camp in Syria. He created many paintings in the refugee camp, painting on black velvet because canvas was not available. In 2007, Syrian secret police imprisoned 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 painting express the pain and also the strength of the Palestinian community in Baghdad and of those scattered as refugees in many corners of the world. He also paints scenes of nature and people interacting with nature. His credo – “Life does not stop, and it is still beautiful.”