30 of the Most Powerful Images of the Tragedy in SYRIA…

Posted: March 22, 2015 in (All Things) CULTURE, (Politics) CURRENT AFFAIRS, (Top) Lists
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The devastating war in Syria has now entered its fifth year.
The human tragedy of Syria, which until five years ago was a stable, multi-cultural society with a rich cultural and historic heritage, is on a scale that news organisations and media coverage is barely able to cope with or express. An entire culture has been gutted and torn to pieces for four years and has been subject to unimaginable levels of ultra-violence and brutality in many instances.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has estimated that more than 210,000 people have died in the conflict since March 2011, with millions of refugees displaced from their homes and communities into an unprecedented mass exodus. In fact, the latest statistics suggest a staggering 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes and three million children are no longer in school. And of course untold millions are struggling to access food, water and shelter in order to survive, the situation having been even worse in the harsh winter conditions in which the scores of displaced civilians both inside Syria and in the refugee camps outside the country have been struggling to stay warm.

It was always unlikely that the Syrian Civil War had ever been a simple case of dissatisfied Syrian civilians taking up arms and trying to overthrow the Assad regime; that simplistic story never had the ring of plausibility to it, given what we now know about the nature of some of the Syrian rebel groups and the nature of some of the worst crimes carried out during the course of the fighting. The nature and barbarity of subsequent crimes carried out in Iraq since Islamic State crossed into that country from Syria last summer have only created even more doubt regarding the mainstream media narrative of the Syrian Civil War.

This post, however, isn’t going to go into the various, complex controversies, agendas, and international conspiracies involved in the Syrian tragedy. Some of that is covered here and can be found in various, numerous on-line resources that have been exposing the true nature of the conflict in Syria for some time now. This post is focused instead on the human tragedy of the conflict, whether we’re talking about victims of the regime or victims of foreign-backed terrorists and mercenaries.

Whether the real story of what has been inflicted on Syria ever comes to be acknowledged in the mainstream/establishment narrative of the West remains to be seen; but photo journalists across the board have been capturing evocative, heartbreaking or downright disturbing images of the conflict almost since its beginnings.

Photo journalism itself is of course an immensely powerful medium that often-times can be far more effective in conveying a situation than the written word can. What can be captured or expressed in a single image in the right conditions is difficult to quantify; and how much of it is art and how much of it a case of being in the right place at the right moment no doubt varies from photo to photo. In making that point, I am reminded vividly of the famous news footage of the Ethiopian famine thirty years ago and how much of an impact those first images of the camps had on people, despite the fact that the situation had been written about in text form prior to that; somehow the text coverage didn’t register with people the enormity or nature of the famine or the suffering, but footage did.

The effect of the job that photo journalists do, often placing themselves on the front-line and in personal danger, is difficult to quantify in terms of how much their work can embed itself in our consciousness or in our perception of a situation. I have picked out 25 of the most affecting images I’ve come across from the conflict in Syria; there are many, many more of course that equally warrant special notice. For the record, I’ve also chosen to omit particularly brutal or bloody images, of which there are a great many in regard to Syria; it’s general policy on this blog not to show images of that kind, even though they are of course a valid, necessary representation of the situation. Those sorts of images, in any case, can be found in a Google search or on You Tube easily; they show just how brutal, how utterly deplorable, some of what has gone on in Syria has been.

In all cases here I’ve tried to credit the photo source, but in some cases wasn’t able to locate the specific sources. These images featured here are ‘softer’ in nature (for want of a better word) than the more explicit images available, but no less expressive or powerful. Some serve to remind us how many children are victims of this conflict and have either been killed or had their lives ruined. Others express the sheer scale of the crisis, the scale of the exodus and displacement. Some capture the sense of loss, confusion or desperation. One or the two of the images are almost Biblical in tone, in regard to the flight of refugees escaping the violence.

All of them communicate the tragedy of Syria, the plight of its people and the sense of hopelessness that seems to exist when it comes to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict…


syria-refugeeschildSyrian child, photo source unknown.

syrian-child-refugee-e1351217210818-tutufoundationusaSyrian refugee child, image courtesy of ‘tutufoundationusa’.

syrian-children-10-unicefRefugee children facing harsh winter conditions. Photo from Unicef.

An aerial view of the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, JordanThe sheer scale of a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AP.

Syrian-child-kennysideshow-blogspot-co-ukA child in the rubble. From ‘kennysideshow.blogspot.co.uk’, original source unknown.


APTOPIX Mideast SyriaThe mass exodus from Yarmouk. Source: Huffington Post, Credit: AP.

SYRIA-CONFLICTSyrian child playing in the streets of Damascus. Omar al-Khani, Getty images.

syrian-refugee-crisis-photos-1381956964957-superJumboA Biblical scene of Syrian refugees in exodus. Photo source unknown.

syria_14montholdghinakhalil_outofrubble_apA 14-month-old girl is discovered in the rubble of a destroyed building. Source: AP.

Syria-grief-fromdc2iowa-blogspotA grief-stricken father with child. Photo credit unknown, source: fromdc2iowa-blogspot.

syrian-church-damaged-isisWreckage of one of the old Syrian churches. Source unknown.

syriangirl-chemical-attack-Reuters-Badi-KhlifSyrian girl recovering from chemical attack. Photo: Badi Khlif, Reuters.


APphoto_Mideast Syria Children In ConflictChildren in Bab al-Salameh refugee camp. Photo: Muhammed Muheisen, AP.


Aleppo-ruins-2014-hosam-katan-reutersDevastated street in Aleppo. Photo source unknown.

Syrian-child-waits-for-treatment-at-a-makeshift-hospital-in-the-rebel-held-area-of-DoumaA child awaits treatment in a rebel held area of Douma. Source unknown.

syria-save-the-children-short-film-highlighting-syrian-crisisFrom ‘Syria, Save the Children’, a short-film highlighting Syrian-crisis.


syria-winter-children-SamTarling-SavetheChildrenRefugee children experience the harsh winter. Photo: Sam Tarling, Save The Children.


Netherlands World Press Photo ContestAn elderly woman reacts to the extreme violence. Source: AP.

Syrian rebel kicks a soccer ball in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo_LATimesA rebel soldier has a reprieve; Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood, Aleppo. Source: LA Times.

syrian-children-cnnSyrian children outside refugee camp. Courtesy of AP/Getty images.

israel-bombs-syriaDevastation in Damascus, Syria’s ancient capital. Photo source unknown.

Pulitzers Syrias Civil WarA wounded woman in Aleppo. Photo credit: Manu Babo, AP.


syria-boy-damascus-survives-gas-attack-Reuters-MohamedAbdullahYoung gas-attack survivors in Damascus. Credit: Mohamed Abdullah, Reuters.


syria-childSyrian child. Photo: Sumaya Agha, Mercy Corps.


syriagirl-chemicalattack-aleppo-REUTERS-GeorgeOurfalianChild suffering from chemical attack. Credit: George Ourfalian, Reuters.

syria-child-refugees5Syrian refugee children in camp, source unknown.

syria_A-toy-is-seen-at-a-damaged-street-in-HomsA child’s tricycle stands unattended in a devastated Homs street.

Meanwhile extraordinary images provided by Amnesty International UK express the extent to which ‘the lights have gone out’ all across Syria during the course of the conflict. The latest research has revealed that the Syrian population is also living in literal darkness as well as figurative darkness – satellite images show that in the worst-affected areas like Aleppo, 97% of the lights are out, as compared to pre-Civil War. You can use this link to sign Amnesty International’s petition to pressure our governments into pushing for a resolution to the Syrian conflict. “It is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions,” the actress and humanitarian ambassador Angelina Jolie recently said, “We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East and in the ruined ghost towns of Syria.”

Four years since the conflict began, it has become increasingly likely that international governments and agencies are going to have to deal with Syria’s President Bashar Assad if they are to find any resolution to the conflict; this clearly being utterly contrary to the earlier narratives and rhetoric in which the ‘Assad Must Go’ mantra was being repeated for strategic, Geo-political reasons. Whatever the solution may or may not be and however long it takes, it is clear that Syria will never be the same and that it may take generations, if ever, for that country to return to anything like its former state.


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