This image has been making the rounds on social media. Personally, I don’t think this trivializes the horror of the Boston bombings. Rather, it recognizes the fact that this heinous and tragic event, which has gripped the country for the past week, is part of daily existence for many people in the world. Imagine the carnage and terror of the marathon bombings being amplified and replicated regularly? What would our society be like?
If you were fleeing your homeland, what’s the one thing you would take? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, or another country in the region.
In the first part of photographer Brian Sokol’s ongoing, UNHCR-supported project, “The Most Important Thing,” refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan openly carried cooking pots, water containers, and other items to help sustain them on their journeys, which could sometimes last days or weeks. But those seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria typically act as if they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way toward a border (the journey is often shorter than in Sudan), since they could be prevented from leaving the country if it became clear they were trying to flee. For that reason, Syrian refugees typically carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones, and bracelets — items that can be worn or concealed in pockets or in the folds of garments. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith; others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.
A Free Syrian Army fighter drags a dead man shot in Salaheddine neighborhood in Aleppo out of the line of sniper fire August 13, 2012. Free Syrian Army fighters said the man was shot dead by Syrian Army snipers. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
I fear the world has already largely moved on from this conflict.
This image sequence of a Syrian army tank firing against a group of rebels in a street of Aleppo is pure and horrible insanity. Taken by Tracey Shelton, it captures the exact moment of a tank shell hitting the rebel position. Miraculously, she survived. Sadly, some of the men weren’t so lucky.
Tracey—a veteran photographer of many wars—has been filming in Aleppo for a while. Earlier this week, she was with the rebels of the Noor Den al-Zenke batallion, who “man a two-block stretch of back streets that now forms the final line between government troops and opposition forces.”
Her tale of the events is bone-chilling
This time, the assault came with little warning. As the cloud of smoke engulfed the street we ran back and frantically waited for the others to escape through the cloud of smoke and debris. But no one came. In that split second, three men were reduced to broken, bleeding masses.
This doesn’t bode well for the future. Will we see a cycle of violence between Syria’s various sects stretching across generations?
There’s no telling where they’ll be going, but they’re getting there one way or the other.
Body bags from the Iraq War, mistakenly attributed to the recent Houla massacre in Syria (my apologies for the error, the clarification is here). It’s hard to believe that in every single one of those sacks - which at first glance resembled bags of rice to me - was a human being with a name, persona, and history. Dozens of people reduced to being nothing more than lifeless tissue.
It reminds me of how someone, upon finding a corpse, will use the possessive “his or her body” - it’s no longer he or her, it’s just their body, and empty shell. Life is so damn fragile.
Re-blogged from scottape.
This was going on around the same time that I was out partying with friends. This is just a sliver of the cruelty and horror that goes on throughout the world at any given time. Years of studying this has not dented the psychological impact - while I’m numb to it for the most part, it saddens me tremendously deep down.
As I lie in my warm bed tonight, I’ll be unable to stop thinking about how something like this is playing out at that very moment, and I’m powerless to stop it.
Mourners carry the body of activist Nour Hatem Zahra, 23, during his funeral procession, in Damascus, Syria, on Monday. Friends and fellow activists say Zahra, who posted anti-government graffiti all around the Syrian capital, bled to death after being shot by Syrian security forces on Sunday.
Thousands of kids like him have died protesting against the Syrian regime, or merely for being in the way of their indiscriminate terror attacks meant to pacify the population. Think of the many more who die bravely facing down other monstrous autocracies around the world. Think of how many young people risk their lives for something we take for granted.
Read a bit more about this young man’s story here. No matter how brutal and dispiriting the attacks, the Syrian people continue to be as courageous and unrelenting as ever. Assad is only making things worse for himself.
The Syrian Uprising. As we speak, thousands of people keep dying for freedoms most of us take for granted. They’re being slaughtered mercilessly, yet they keep on going. For a whole year they keep enduring the suffering, and yet they won’t quit. What would I do in their situation? Would I be that brave? I’m lucky that, for the foreseeable future, I don’t even have to find out.
Once again, Foreign Policy offers a beautiful photo essay of one of the most beautiful and ancient cities in human history. Aside for my obvious love of history and other cultures (especially a combination of the two), I’m drawn to old and grainy photographs that I feel add a nice aesthetic dimension in addition to providing sense of context. As the introduction nicely notes:
“No recorded event has occurred in the world but Damascus was in existence to receive the news of it,” wrote Mark Twain after visiting Syria’s capital — known colloquially as al-Sham — in the 1860s. “She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.”
Over the centuries, Damascus has been conquered by a string of foreign invaders that extends from King David of Israel — chronicled in the Old Testament — straight through to the French, who occupied the city until 1945. In between, Damascus fell to a list of conquerors that includes the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Umayyads, Egyptian Mamluks, and Ottoman Turks. But now, roiled by the Arab Spring, the invasions are internal, with Syrian tanks and troops rolling into restive cities.
Indeed, Damascus, has survived and experienced quite a lot in its peerless history, spanning an almost unprecedented 4,000 years. Imagine what it must be like to walk through, let alone live in, a place steeped in so many events, changes, civilizations, and lives. Perhaps I’m making it out to be more transcendental and spiritual than it otherwise would be – especially as a lot of the folks living there would likely shrug and take it as a given for where they live. But I think it’d be awe inspiring to tour a place with the full awareness of the extent of it’s existence.
This in particular is one of my favorite photographs, and a testament to the great contributions of Islamic civilization during it’s golden age.
Even with my qualms and criticism with respect to religion, I could appreciate the beauty and aesthetics of Islamic artistic and intellectual pursuits.
I think it’s unsurprising hat regions with such a vast scope of history, which have survived the test of time and tribulation, are often so proud and conservative. A glorious past – and all the traditions and values that stem from it – could be a difficult thing to let go of, especially as the present-day seems so degraded and uncertain. As Syria finds itself in the midst of potentially unprecedented change (even despite it’s numerous ocurrences), I hope Damascus could add the liberation and freedom of it’s people to it’s long and rich list of events.