Syria: Photo Journal by Rami Jarrah, Co-Founder of ANA Media
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"This is very personal
I look back now and remember the protests; the voices that screamed freedom while i gazed at tears stampeding through the faces of grown women and men.
I look back now and remember the armed men who ran towards us with orders to shoot but could not find the hate inside them to do so and threw down their weapons and joined our lines and chanted 'we are one'
I look back now and remember those that managed to hate us, and made martyrs of us, only we would carry our martyrs on our shoulders with pride, all of us now, standing in the very front row
I look back now and remember a mother who said to me, "it is our duty to sacrifice my son" i believed her words were genuine, for the blood on her hands and her son laid still on her lap were pure witness to this
I look back now and remember the solidarity of humans from around the world who stood by us and offered what they could and said, "we love you and support you" we are forever in debt to them.
I look back now and remember my friends, the only people i trusted all died because they believed, because they were beautiful human beings, far braver than I.
I look back now and remember my father as he stood on Syrian soil for the very first time in 30 years and screamed into the crowd in Binnish "we poets write with pens but you the people, you have written poetry with your blood"
I look back now and remember Bara al Bouhsi stripping his ranks of his shoulders and throwing his weapon to the ground swearing that he would never kill to gain justice only to die with his camera in his hand.
I look back now and remember the brother of a tortured revolutionary, he could not cope to imagine what his brother was going through, his brother died, as did he on a mission to relieve him of his pain.
I look back now and remember Syrians of all colors open their doors to freedom only to welcome murderers in, who would attempt destroy their lives.
I look back now and remember fleeing Syria and looking back at my country across the border with shame, I took picture that day to remind me of that feeling, that shame.
I look back and now and remember the look of my brothers face as he watches the pain of our people wreck their insanity, His words sink in me, his heart breaks my very essence. ارحمني يا ضياء
I look back now and remember who I was before all this, sure that thats still not what I want now, i could never give in to that, I love the people i met in this revolution.
I look back now and remind myself that even if there is no road forward there is no turning back, even if we must build our paths each individually and meet each other somewhere sooner or later, there is no turning back.
From now on if I am asked to rest I will say 'I look back now and remember; there is no reason to rest for there is no reason to forget'." -- Rami Jarrah
Children of Aleppo Fardos high street Syria
"Big brother was watching me take pictures of his siblings until i pointed the camera at him and saw this."
"There she is again, she loves the pictures she keeps screaming demanding for one and once the lens is pointed at her she goes quiet and stares with a fading smile. Her brothers behind her are watching." Aleppo, Fardos Highstreet, Syria
"Older brother counts the day's earnings as little sister shows pure thankfulness that her guardian is there to protect her. She loves him as siblings should love each-other; its just ugly that war and terrible circumstances are needed to show this beautiful reality. I can't get enough of these kids, somehow their faces explain everything that happens in Syria not sure how to explain it but hope the pictures will help." -Aleppo, Fardos Street
"They are always on this very street by the bakery on Al Fardos, they smile as though times had always been like this. As much as I adore the hope they are able to throw at me each time even in the midst of so much devastation. the way they are able to adapt whilst being so uplifting is also in many ways very unfortunate." -Aleppo, Fardos Street
"From behind the driver's seat window on Fardos High street of Aleppo he says 'I just want to eat sir, I don't want your money in my pocket' Aleppo, Syria"
"She plays on her own in the streets of old Aleppo, her eye lids do not respond to the sounds of war around us."
"There she is again, her eyes will not even flicker to the sounds of warfare. Aleppo, Old City."
"They finally posed for a picture after an endless cat and mouse chase because they thought i worked for Syrian State TV." [Photo taken in] Aleppo, Bab al-Nasr.
"I asked him if he wanted to be president of Syria when he grows up, he giggled and said 'no، because I want to work'. Aleppo, Bab Al-Nasr"
"Her brother was a rascal, kept warning me that if i took a picture of his sister the lens would crack, "young man your sister has lighten up our day with her smile, she is simply beautiful" [Photo taken in] Aleppo, Old City
"I honestly didn't notice the ISIS poster in the corner." Aleppo, Fardos [The poster is an anti ISIS poster]
"And he spins around and shouts at me "Sir, is my picture going to be on Aleppo Today?", (a popular local tv channel) "No son, your picture is going to be in our hearts" Aleppo, Old City"
"Friday prayers is over, I'm walking out the mosque and the youngsters are curious. Aleppo, Old City"
"This was also outside the mosque just after Friday prayers not far from the Omayyad Mosque of Aleppo, the Imam giving the speech kept making sure that I was taking pictures of him but i was more concerned with those that hadn't prepared for the shot. Theres always someone posing and theres almost always a quiet one standing by." - Aleppo, Syria
"He lives in an arabic house in the old city with 5 siblings and he is the second youngest the father is the head of a small battalion so is hardly ever there, but right now he wants me to chase him and so he keeps running back and forth whilst giggling. I pretended something happened to the camera so he walked towards me and that was the look on his face." Aleppo, Old City
"Here on the old streets of Aleppo, almost a peaceful silence as she stares at me. The sounds of ammunition and heavy shelling are in the background and sometimes a fading scream of agony is heard from the victims, its her calmness that can give a stranger like me tolerance of all the devastation around us." - Aleppo, Syria
"She marked our entrance into the main market place of the old city, the local fighting groups were very annoyed with us being there and taking pictures, i remember this moment thinking if i can make her smile i cant shut them up. She was smiling the whole time." - Aleppo, Syria
"The victory sign has become a very common symbol in rebel controlled areas of Syria to the extent that photographers try to actually avoid anyone raising one, Most children automatically do it when posing for a picture which makes it quite frustrating but not dismissible." -Aleppo, Syria
"Just behind me, in the direction the boys are looking at is a canon launcher they said they both knew how to use, but they of course swore to me that they would never do it on their own. The boys are door on door neighbors from this alleyway one is 7 and one is 5." -Aleppo, Syria
"Again, there are more children than anyone else on these streets, and you get this sense that they are alone and subject to discussions far from what they should be thinking about at such a young age. I was at a small meat shop talking with two children and a third who just stood by and stared at me, the two were telling me very tragic stories of people they knew who died sometimes pointing at the buildings that had been leveled to the ground around us. Then i asked the silent kid what his name was but he didn't answer, he just came closer to the table and stared at my belongings with curiosity. One of the other boys said 'he doesn't talk, he's been like that since his parents died because he was with them when the barrel bomb hit' does he have a name i asked, 'we call him Ahmad, he really never talks'. I'll never forget the look in this boys eyes, to portray him felt like a violation to every principle I have and so i was only staring back trying to imagine what this child had seen the moment his mother and father departed his life." -Streets of Aleppo, Syria
"I have nothing to say except a question, is this a 3 year old child?" -Aleppo, Syria
"He works at a bakery with his father in the Bab al Nasr area of Aleppo, he doesn't worry about the controversy of air attacks on bakeries because he's already been in a similar situation and survived. His school was bombed in April 2012 and was the last time he went to class, he says it was also the last time he saw his best friend. Fact: Al Kabbani school, Ansari area, Aleppo city, bombed by Syrian regime air-force - April 2012" -Aleppo, Syria
"While the rest of the children were waving their sticks and flags at me for a picture shouting 'we will kill daesh' the youngest child was trying to get into the picture but was being pushed away by the others. She sprinted to the nearest wall and cried silently against it, I ran up, leaned against the same wall and whispered to her; 'all I wanted was your picture' she slowly turned around and looked at the other kids then back at me whilst wiping her tears. A stranger is always of curiosity to the children, their faces lighten up claiming my full attention each time." -Aleppo, Syria
"And there's the rest of the clan, all packed up and ready to fight; they were all screaming 'we are coming for you Daesh'. A few months ago I sat with a few friends who were intent on putting together a project aimed at Syrian children who had witnessed the war, we spoke about the need of a cartoon character that would be tailored specifically for them, where all the issues and events they had been subject to were being addressed. Maybe something similar to spongebob but again designed to target Syrian children and reduce the effects of trauma on them. For many reasons and the main being the responsibility behind such a project in not causing more damage to the children mentally we didn't go through with it, but seeing the way these kids practiced warfare in such childly manner really puts me down on why there is no real attention given towards attending this growing disaster. Syrian children are at the heart of this catastrophe. Oh and by the way for those following; this shot was taken just after the little girl ran to the wall after being pushed out of the frame." -Aleppo, Syria
"He dropped us off in his taxi, there was no meter so i asked him how much i should pay and he said: 'the route we came down was far from the citadel's view (meaning the sniper and the spotters who could order heavy artillery attacks) so just give me 200 leras son' a good taxi driver in Aleppo today is one that can not only get you to your destination but also avoid you any dangers caused by war, the sum you pay is no longer related to the distance but rather the risks taken successfully. He was a humble man." Aleppo, Syria
"He's taking us to a spot just down that alleyway behind him, its where a barrel bomb landed and he was wounded. He's alive because his father threw himself over him to protect him from the flying shrapnel. He attended his father's burial the next morning. He then joined the Islamic Front. Aleppo, Syria"
"Fascinating what pointing a camera can bring out in people, FSA fighter on the Bab al Nasr frontlines of Aleppo."
"Anas a young FSA fighter from Aleppo who has a dream of being a Journalist, here he joins Friday prayers, was the only moment he let his guard down the whole time we were together."
"We're now in an ancient arabic house in the old city taking a short rest and Anas is speaking to me about how he fled regime controlled areas and joined the FSA here in rebel controlled Aleppo, 'I will probably never see my parents again, because they decided to stay over there' he said. Aleppo, Syria"
"He was just about to start university, but a revolution started first and eventually he joined a small battalion in the old city area of Aleppo. He says he wants to go live in Istanbul once this is all over because he visited it last year and saw many beautiful women." - Aleppo, Syria
"I worried that they would pose for the camera, and they did. The cheerful girl who welcomed us was comfortable so why wouldn't I be, Still i was consumed with the proud look they both had in their eyes and chests." - Aleppo, Syria
"This fighter from an FSA battalion based in Aleppo near the Bab al Nasr entrance to the old city is showing me the whole behind the sheet on the wall from which we can see the Aleppo Citadel, if you are able to the see Citadel in open space it means the snipers are able to see you, thats what makes this whole in the wall worth its while." - Aleppo, Syria
"This is a small local battalion in the old city of Aleppo, they are all quite young and from the area. I spent the night before this in their base an old arabic house where they gave me a demonstration on how to spot jet fighters at night. Turns out it has nothing to do with what you can see or hear (yeah I'm also confused)" - Aleppo, Syria
"They're a group of young fighters located in the old city of Aleppo and when watching them walk side by side they're innocent child-like faces seem as if they're on they're way to the local football arena for a 5 on 5 friendly. I slept over their small base for a night during which this young man in the picture explained to me that he was not yet responsible for harming anyone in battle and hopes it'll always remain that way, he chatted away about himself but the whole time was half aware of his conversation with me; just after every one or so questions he would ask me something about my camera and grab it for a quick shot, he looked fascinated as he toyed with it, I asked him that if he liked cameras and pictures why he wouldn't take it up and that he could do it from here in Aleppo, he smiled at me, a smile very similar to the one in this shot and said "يا ريت" which basically means "I wish". -Aleppo, Syria
"This is Danty, she lives with one of the local battalions in an old arabic house. The fighters take turn in stroking her and carrying her, she is a very spoilt cat with a bad attitude." -Aleppo, Syria
"He is the eldest by far in the group and the rest in the group are in their early and mid twenties, he is always quiet and does most of the serving to his younger comrades and their guests. I'm not sure how to explain this but even without a conversation this man gave me a a very strong and positive impression. Danty the cat seems to feel at home with him, with the man in this picture who is a fighter for the Free Syrian Army." -Aleppo, Syria
"He was visiting from another battalion and joined us in the old arabic house in the Bab al Nasr area of Aleppo, during his stay he accidentally pushed my camera to the floor, and then throughout the night he apologized at-least 20 times and offered to pay for any damaged he'd caused. He was a religious man and very polite." -Aleppo, Syria
"'I would never fight for either side, because either way I'm going to have to kill' he explains while drinking his Tamarind juice, only makes sense knowing that he has siblings who have died on opposing sides." - Aleppo, Syria
"This shot was taken just before an armed man came running towards me screaming; 'no pictures, stop', I quickly asked 'isn't that a ancient fountain treatment house for children?' He calmed down a little and said 'I'm sorry but yes it used to be, its now the Islamic Front headquarters' oh well at-least i got this picture." Aleppo, Old City
"Its a fountain in the middle of an ancient arabic house located in the old city of Aleppo, the sound of the water splashing on its surface was and is used to cure children with mental illnesses, this is an ancient healing center for children." - Aleppo, Syria
"If i could move the car i would have, the entrance there is to the Jowahiri Bath, a roman like bath space which is common in Syrian cities, this one closed down during 2013, the owner said to me no one has peace of mind enough to sit down for even a few minutes and enjoy such a luxury so he decided to close, he said he loved his business and has thought of going elsewhere that is safe but could never see himself leaving this location, he would rather fail." -Aleppo, Syria
"Walking through the arabic houses we make it into this one which contains a large abandoned fountain and steps which lead up onto the roof from which we are told we can get a clear shot of the Aleppo Citadel. I see mirrors on the wall in the back of something that looks like a stage opposite the fountain, its very sunny so i walk into the shade, then looked up and saw this." -Aleppo, Syria
"Just before going up the wooden ladder-like steps we go into a cellar, in here there is almost an echoing of the branches being swept by the wind outside. Anas, the young FSA fighter who dreams of being a journalist is making a melody, his movement calculated by the dried up leaves he interacts with on the floor." -Aleppo, Syria
"The ceiling art, the cellar and now this; a view from of the roof of the old arabic house that I have learnt to fall in love with. At the very top of these housings in this shot is a structure that was built over 850 years ago on a hilltop occupied by civilizations since the 10th century BC, it can be seen from many parts of the city however the rebels do not control it and so this makes it a spotting point for the other side to monitor their opponent's movements not to mention the dangers of gazing at it from this side due to the snipers that are fixed on it's high points. Whilst traveling around Aleppo this structure has literally been spoken of in my presence at-least 20 times each day and those who mention it do so in the past tense as if it were just an old memory. whether out of love, pride or just the general yearning of Syrians to mingle in it's grounds again, the ugly reality is that although just a few hundred meters away, it is truly in a whole other world.The structure just under the sky here that i speak of is the ancient Citadel of Aleppo."
"Remember the pinned metallic door I've mentioned a number of times coming in and out of the old city, well this is a close up of its surface; a door about 5 meters high with piles of dust under it giving it time to rest. It really is unfortunate that these textures and structures are now not being taken care of, but a luxury for anyone that is able to still be here and witness each time, once more." -Aleppo, Old City
"This is what those pinned metallic doors to the old city look like from a short distance. The significance of this picture to me is the circumstances around taking it, see just before this area is a district named; Fardos from which to here is a 500 meter open air drive demanding anyone crossing it to step on the gas or risk being another target of the snipers aligned to the right side in the distance. This shot is bent upwards and not quite the frame desired because a few steps back and I'll be in that open air vulnerable to those waiting for their prey, however the man on the bicycle here still managed to pull a smile at me after going through the whole ordeal of intensively peddling across." -Aleppo, Syria
"This is the Minaret i see in the place I'm staying every morning walking past the wall out to the entrance of our building. Because this place is literally at the very frontline, if you go up on that Minaret you can see the regime controlled areas and the rebel controlled areas, one night I'll do just that." - Aleppo, Saif al Dowleh
"This is Saif al Dowleh market in Aleppo, just a few hundred meters away from the front lines. This street is quite busy in the day because its relatively safe and this because, families from circling areas come here to buy necessities so you will see a normal market during the day but when it goes dark most of the shops close except for those who have generators like these two in the picture." -Aleppo, Syria
"This is Fardos street from the other end, the opposite side to the closed off highway. Its just after sunset and a lot of the shops are closing because they cant afford to operate electricity generators, I'm standing in a square on what used to be a flower bed and there's a car parked to the right (in the photo) that has been following us down the road the whole time whilst we were on foot. They finally stopped us and asked what we were doing and who we were, after i explained they mumbled to each-other and drove off. This is common in Aleppo, the suspicions of people with cameras because of the possibility i could be someone trying to document locations for the Syrian regime, or ISIS for that matter." -Aleppo, Syria
"The highway there which leads to a bridge over the square ahead is closed off because its viewable to snipers and many incidences have happened. The street I'm standing on is Fardos St. Which is full of fast food restaurants and gold shops, this is also where you would come if you wanted to exchange foreign money. Its somewhat symbolic where you see a sign that says Damascus this way, but following you'll only take yourself into no mans land, this is not a sunrise its the end of the day but just a little hope as light shines in the direction of the city of jasmines: Dimashq." -Aleppo, Syria
"The carpets above there have been put up to block the snipers view because this location is at the very frontline and just behind here are the sandbags piled up. The old streets are very quiet here and everyone is always whispering, we can here the movements of people on the other side, but no talking, i guess they're also whispering. In the photo is a mirror placed on a broken up LCD." -Aleppo, Syria
"Because the battle-lines of opposing sides are usually close to each-other it means that advances by either side become almost house to house, this is why holes like this are opened up in the walls to make moving around for the fighters much easier, its unfortunate because these are walls of historical arabic houses, but I must admit the opportunity to crouch through these walls to witness a surprise on the other side each time is a luxury I will not forget." -Aleppo, Syria
"Going through those holes in the wall has proven to be very rewarding, i could swear that there was no way into this place except through that whole but that would be ridiculous, I was basically walking down a corridor and whilst walking past peaked through a slit in a closed door on the right, I pushed the door open and this is what i saw." -Aleppo, Syria
"The slight indents on the side of the streets are part of the Water drainage system of the old city of Aleppo still depended on for keeping these streets clean. Also important to mention that traveling through the city its easily noticeable that the old city is by far cleaner than any of the modern built areas in many aspects." -Aleppo, Syria
"its streets scream history through our very ankles as we trod across its surface with respect to all that has been and all those that have witnessed the harmony of this land. I cannot bare to believe what my lens is able to capture here, almost total destruction of what was and what is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back as far as 6000 BC it shields treasures and secrets around every corner but only to be governed in modern age by fascist dictators who have no love for it's existence, it has now become a place for sacrifice and new thought, this new thought brings struggle and resilience but also brings rage and revenge at every doorstep fueled by a world of shares and interests only amplifying the message of injustice, the land I speak of is a beautiful place that smiles every time i look at it the land i speak of is the ancient city of Aleppo" -Aleppo, Syria
"I am not ashamed of where I am today I am actually proud that my husband and I have raised our two sons well and that they stand by me now in these moments of chaos. I only pray that my sons will see their father one day again soon, as soon as he gets back from defending our land". I learned my lesson when asking her how she felt about her sons living in these conditions compared to their past life, with her sons staring a few meters behind her she was resilient in her response and spoke to me with her head raised and a smile in her eyes, the eyes of this proud mother of two " -Aleppo, Syria
"There they are now, both her sons with their guard down to the man who profiled their mother. Her youngest son was curious but big brother held him back with a responsible tug of the shoulder. She then gave a swift nod to them when I began picturing their stance, a nod of approval to two young men, one of which was very suspicious. I asked them how they felt about their father not being there and the older brother responds "I would be there fighting with him but my mother and & brother are my obligation now" his maturity was terrifying and i could not avoid the thought of too much responsibility on such a young soul. When we ask ourselves how people cope in such tragic moments, seeing this detail explains it all." -Aleppo, Syria
"He sells tamarind juice at Bab al Nasr square and taps on his copper cup with his spoon a melody that rings your attention. Aleppo, Syria"
"I stopped them on their motorcycle to ask them which direction the Aleppo Citadel was in, they explained to me and so i asked them to smile for the camera: shot 1 shot, 2, shot 3 amazing how the sound of a shutter can bring out hidden smiles, that was shot 4." - Aleppo, Old City
"A square by the al Shaar area of Aleppo which sees streets and alleyways that have been totally leveled to the ground. Two elderly men here on a motorcycle driving through take a quick stop for some freshly squeezed juice right at our location. 'Can i take your picture' i ask 'If it's for AlJazeera then no' one replies while smiling and raising his cup to me." -Aleppo, Syria
"He guards the entrance to the old city of Aleppo at Bab al Nasr, he was once a taylor who had his own shop but it was destroyed by the airstrikes, I asked me where his shop was and he said 'right where I'm standing'" - Aleppo, Syria
"Going in and out of the old city he's always there, the man who used to have a taylor shop but was destroyed and now guards it's location. He's armed but he doesn't fight says he owns one thing he loves in this world and it was that shop and he's not letting anyone take it from him, Oh and this time his son was with him." - Aleppo, Old City, Syria
"Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo as I explained has most of it's structures demolished as a result of ongoing offensives on the area. However it is still the case that market places and shops are open for the usual day to day needs of the locals here. Most of the shops are prepared in the event of an airstrike or barrel bomb attack which is quite common, and so the goods are usually placed on a large wooden base that can be carried away in such an emergency. I know it sounds strange; why would anyone want to save goods when their lives are in danger, well when you are constantly subject to that danger and have survived an attack but lost all your belongings that mentality really does seem to shift. Still trying to imagine what this man is going to be able to savor when its his turn." -Aleppo, Syria
"Walking around the old city of Aleppo I mainly see children and elders, the rest are either in fighting or abroad trying to support their families here. I must mention this; but when the attacks take place on these areas it makes it quite apparent why the victims are almost always the defenseless. I ask myself time and time again; how can someone intentionally target these people. The 3 elder men walking towards me in this shot stop and ask me what I'm up to, i reply by saying I'm trying to preserve whats left of life here in pictures before its too late and the man in the middle says "don't be so negative son, we're not going anywhere." -Aleppo, Old City
"He sits by the entrance of the Aleppo Old City, just by the large metallic pinned door he tickles his stick with his index finger and smiles while gazing in his past." Aleppo, Syria
"I follow him after his profile then comes his humble friend and asks me 'where are you from young man?' 'Damascus' i replied, he looked down at his hands for a moment and looked at me again 'We're sorry for what is happening in Ghouta, we should all be there with them, ask them to forgive us for we are also weak' (this shot was 10 seconds later) . Aleppo, Old City"
"Every breath I take should be to tell your story
Bara al Boushi a university media graduate assigned lieutenant in the Syrian Arab Army was deployed to participate in the crack down on civilians protesting for democracy in 2011, he defected from the army in objection to the abuses and killings of Syrians and went into hiding, most officers who defected from the army joined opposition armed forces to retaliate against the crackdown, Bara threw his weapon down and said "i will not fight or attempt to kill my own countrymen to gain justice, justice for me will come from shedding light on the truth.
In early August 2012 still on the run but now reporting on the events taking place across Damascus he decides to set out to a small town named Tal in The capital's suburbs because it's witnessing an intense offensive by regime forces on civilian homes,
On the 11th of August Bara, the only citizen journalist in the area died with his camera in his hand.
He knew this would be his fate, he continued because he loved his country and it's people