FRIDAY'S front cover of The National is dedicated to refugees and displaced people now living across Scotland.

The creative reins were handed over to the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) to mark the start of their annual festival.

Queer Arab performing artist Huss, who cannot return to his home country of Egypt due to severe safety concerns, and designer Malini Chakrabarty (below) put together an artwork that reflects human rights, collective consciousness and joy.

(Image: Colin Mearns)

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It comes amid a General Election campaign where refugees have been repeatedly demonised in the media.

Huss, a programming fellow at the SRC, said: "This opportunity means a lot, especially coming from the festival team.

"It's really important to show people the work that's been put into this festival, not only from new Scots, but also people and organisations that stand up and fight for their communities."

"When people see this on the newspaper stands, we don't want people to see this as just a piece of artwork.

"Having that platform to show the hard work everyone has put in to the festival to show this refugee experience in all its honesty and beauty is really important.

"There's so much culture, and richness, and talent to the festival – we hope the cover invites everyone to come and see it."

Huss and Malini co-ordinated their work on the piece almost entirely online, with most of the planning taking place over Zoom calls.

Malini said that the cover artwork was inspired by a poem Huss wrote, which discusses his personal experiences in coming to Scotland.

Huss spoke further about the cover, saying: "We want people to look at it as a symbol of solidarity and a symbol of resilience.

"There is so much story and power, not only in this, but in all the work that's been put in to the festival."

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Huss – who cannot be named fully due to safety concerns – cannot go back to his native Egypt.

Having studied in Scotland, he planned to continue his work back home. However amid backlash from people in Egypt over his performing in a queer venue, the country is now a dangerous place for him. He fears facing violence and imprisonment if he returns.

Malini discussed what inspired her when creating the artwork, saying: "I thought it was very important to highlight how when we embrace each other, when we open ourselves up to be better human beings, we create a better world for everybody.

"You can see all these dreams" – the leaves in the poem – "taking flight".

She continued: "It's very important for me as an artist to establish that this is not only a festival for refugees, or for looking at them as 'the other'.

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"It's a festival for everybody, it's a festival for the ethos of Scotland.

"Scotland is kind, and warm, and it's got its arms open, and so many people come here from all over the world come here.

"That's what makes Scotland."

Several Scottish elements are present in the piece, with the people in the foreground holding hands with their arms across their body – as revellers do in Auld Lang Syne.

Behind them are the silhouettes of several Scottish landmarks, including the Forth Bridge and Edinburgh Castle.

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Behind the skyline are a pair of green hills, with a dove in the valley they form, all backed by a blue sky.

Malini said she found symbolism in the process of liberation from difficult situations, which inspired the dove.

It holds a branch, which is shown to have evolved from a run of barbed wire.

Huss's poem fills the skies above the blue hills, with leaves surrounding them representing the dreams of people who have come to Scotland.

(Image: Colin Mearns)

He told The National: "I took inspiration from a performance piece I did, which was a phone call between me and my mom talking about that feeling of disconnect, but also re-establishing our relationship and our love, and building up on so much.

"I took that as inspiration, and that's my happy ending to the story – I'm stable and secure here, and I love Scotland.

"It was very important to portray that symbol of hope, especially during terrifying times – we will continue to fight for people experiencing anything similar or worse."

Refugee Festival Scotland runs from Friday, June 14 to Sunday, June 23 at locations across Scotland.

Events are free to attend, or on a sliding pricing scale.

For details on events near you, visit