The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has compiled moving documents of contemporary history with a collection of images by Syrian photographers who have recorded daily life in the ongoing war.
Searching for memories in the rubble of Raqqa
A woman pushes a stroller through the destroyed landscape of Raqqa in this photograph from 2019. “I was shocked by what happened to my city, in which I have memories in every street,” the photographer Abood Hamam says. “They destroyed everything connected to our past and memory with our life in the city, every detail that used to connect me to it. It was so painful.”
A photograph of unending mourning
Brothers embrace after losing their mother in Idlib in 2020. Photographer Ghaith Alsayed, who was 17 when the war began and lost his brother in a bomb attack. “Every time I had to cover an airstrike, it took me back to the day when my brother Amer was killed by the missiles that bombed our city,” Alsayed says. “The same scene keeps repeating itself,” he adds.
Lost in the destruction
In this 2020 photo from Mohannad Zayat, a woman and her child shelter in a destroyed Binish school. “When the war in Syria began, I was a high school student, and I never expected myself to be a journalist and photographer,” Zayat says. “Over the past years, I have been able to transmit many humanitarian stories worldwide, which gives me the motivation and strength to continue my work,” he adds.
Precious water pools in craters made by bombs
In 2013, this Aleppo boy drinks water from a destroyed pipe out of a bomb crater. “Some people wrote comments criticizing the unreality of the image, and saying that the photographer should have provided clean water to the child instead of exploiting his image,” Muzaffar Salman says. “I believe that any change of reality begins with seeing it as it is and not as we would like it to be,” he adds.
Residents leave the city of Ghoula
A man pulls his child in a suitcase as a family flees the city of Ghoula in March 2018. “The war has not only changed Syria, but it has also changed our way of seeing and the way we photograph in order to share humanitarian messages with the world,” the photographer Omar Sanadiki says. “My dream is that one day, even after 50 years, my daughters, Asli and Zoya, will show my pictures to the world.”
A cup of coffee in Douma
A woman and her husband drink coffee at their home in Douma, on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, in 2017. “Umm Mohammed was one of the most special people I met,” photographer Sameer Al-Doumy says. “She got badly injured and just as she was recovering, her husband was hit by an airstrike and lost his ability to walk. … Her love for her husband was evident and greater than anything.”
A woman mourns her son in the Daraa region
“On many occasions, I couldn’t photograph what I saw because of the volume of pain and oppression in front of me,” Mohamad Abazeed says. “When I photographed this woman, who was visiting the grave of her son on the first day of Eid al-Fitr in 2017, she was crying and kissing the grave. And I was crying with her and wiping my tears to be able to hold myself together and take the photo.”
The child who lost her leg in a mortar attack
Five-year-old Aya waits for her father to fix dinner in Damascus in December 2013. She was on her way to school when she was hit by a mortar. “I was wearing my brown shoes,” Aya told the photographer Carole Alfarah. “The shoe just flew and my leg flew with it. My leg has gone.”
A makeshift parkour course
In Kafr Nouran, near Aleppo, parkour athletes make constructive use of destroyed buildings in September 2020. Anas Alkharboutli’s work shows the ways in which life has continued in various ways in the rubble.
A new chance near Idlib?
“I took this photo in 2020 in the town of Balyun, south of Idlib, of a family returning home after the ceasefire agreement,” the photographer Ali Haj Suleiman says. “I had mixed feelings of sadness and joy at the same time. Joy, because I saw people returning to their homes and they were happy, but at the same time I felt sadness because, myself, I could not go back to my village and home.”