When Suhaib Harraka stepped off the airplane in the United States from Syria, he saw complete darkness.
“The first thing I thought was ‘Where are the skyscrapers?’,” the 25-year-old said.
That was two years ago. On Thursday, a black balloon popped behind him.
The Plaza of the Americas was covered with black balloons Thursday afternoon as part of UF Amnesty International and UF Students for Justice in Palestine’s “The 70 Balloons Project.”
The black balloon display was a visual representation of the Syrian death toll since the Syrian Revolution started in 2011.
Each of the 70 black balloons taped onto green stakes represented 1,000 Syrians killed, Harraka said.
He said he wants the balloon display to serve as an attractive way to get people informed about the crisis in Syria.
Event organizer Sameer Saboungi agreed.
The 18-year-old international studies freshman said the organization wanted to use art to illustrate the cost of the conflict.
“As a Syrian-American, it pains me to see my fellow brothers and sisters in Syria being killed,” Saboungi said. “This is the least that I can do to raise awareness.”
Harraka said “The 70 Balloons Project” is a symbol of hope and a progressive future.
“We hope the crisis ends,” he said. “Then, we can build our country.”
UF Amnesty International and UF Students for Justice in Palestine created “The 70 Balloon Project” on the Plaza of the Americas on Thursday afternoon. The 70 balloons represent the 70,000 Syrians killed since the start of the Syrian Revolution.