SOURIYAT: The Aftermath of the Syrian Conflict - PhMuseum

SOURIYAT: The Aftermath of the Syrian Conflict

Annie Ling

2014 - Ongoing

Three days before her son Zayid was born, I met Souad, 23-years-old from Aleppo, with her three children in a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Souad was married at fifteen to a distant relative who tortured her. Nine months earlier, her husband and son went missing during a bombing and Souad believes she would never see them again. Without documents, she smuggled into Turkey, seeking support and work to provide for her family.

A growing number of widows and young dependents having lost parents in the conflict are forced to become the main breadwinners in the struggle to survive in host countries. Limited access to shelter, food, employment, and security, however, leads to further humiliation and desperate recourse. “More and more Syrians are at the mercy of human traffickers, as they face closed borders and pushback to neighboring countries,” writes a recent post by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The war in Syria has displaced more than 9 million internally while each day, families and a majority of Syrian women and children join the near 4 million seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Syria, the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today, now enters its fifth year.

In Kilis by the Syrian border, I met Iman who took advantage of her foreign appearance to smuggle supplies for civilians in need during the revolution. She was tortured and suffered electric shock in sensitive areas of her body for four months when she was caught and imprisoned by regime forces. Soon after her release, Iman smuggled herself and two girlfriends into Turkey, looking for work and surviving off of $30USD monthly UN food vouchers. A Syrian social worker in exile found Iman and offered her a place to stay at her barely furnished apartment in Kilis.

Reported harsh living conditions impose a threat to children who may face increased pressure to enter into early marriages. Women whose often forced reliance on male family members leave them isolated at home and removed from public safe-spaces to socialize. A UNHCR’s Participatory Assessment found “Women spoke openly about how their husbands were physically or emotionally abusive, with many stating that such behavior results from an increased level of tension due to poor living conditions and the current crisis in Syria.”

The conflict in Syria and the weight of the Syrian refugee crisis on neighboring countries has made many headlines, while the majority of displaced women continue to fight daily for survival and a future for their families. Their collective voices and powerful stories of resilience and resistance against all odds long to be recognized and remembered.

Being a witness to women supporting each other in displaced communities, in spite of their struggle for survival is what I hope to continue doing. This grant would enable me to return to this region and expand this work in neighboring countries Lebanon and Jordan.

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  • Ragda (36) and her 7-months pregnant daughter Nora (19) at a shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Ragda lost her husband and two sons in a barrel bomb attack in her old neighborhood in Syria. "We cannot make plans for our future until Syria is whole again." - Ragda S.

  • Late afternoon in Kilis, a Turkish city near the Syrian border. Kilis has experienced a significant influx of Syrian refugees in recent years.

  • Iman reveals a scar from backbone cancer surgery. Her wound reopened in prison, where she was tortured and suffered electric shock in sensitive areas of her body for four months. Iman and her daughter were arrested on June 1st, 2013 by the regime when she was caught smuggling medical supplies, food and water to injured civilians.

  • A shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey.

  • A widow prays mid-afternoon in a room provided by a shelter run by Syrian women supporting vulnerable Syrian widows and their families in Gaziantep, Turkey.

  • Fathya (25) from Azaz, Syria at a shelter for widows in Gaziantep. Fathya was married for eleven years to a man who treated her brutally with insults and beatings. Her husband and two sons died in the first barrel bombing attack on Syria in August 2012. Barrel bomb attacks throughout Syria have killed more than 20,000 people since the conflict began in March 2011.

  • Fathya (25), suffers verbal and physical abuse from her younger 17-year-old brother, who has been designated by her family to keep an eye on her. When this image was made, she was waiting to hear if her family would accept a marriage proposal from a 60-year-old Turkish man to take Fathya on as a second wife. She does not want to marry again, but her family insists that she does and forbids her to study. "Maybe if I was educated, my whole life would be different." Fathya would go through a bad marriage again to escape her overprotective family.

  • Omsami (meaning "mother of Sami") 55-years-old from the countryside of Aleppo currently lives with her daughter-in-law and four grandchildren at a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Here, she caresses a photograph of her son Sami who was killed by the Assad regime while fighting for the FSA (Free Syrian Army) nearly two years ago.

  • Azza (19) and her sister Lamiaa (20) left Aleppo with their family in 2011 because of bombing in their neighborhood. They hope to continue studies in medicine, but their savings have dried up since leaving Syria and they have no work and income to continue their education or support their seven younger brothers. "Our father is very angry because he cannot make his family happy, and mother is sad because she cannot give the boys what they ask for." - Lamiaa A.

  • Ibtesam (40), an english teacher from Aleppo, fled to Kilis seeking medical help after a bomb dropped on her home killed her 11-year-old daughter Iman and left her other daughter Aya (14) injured with a broken skull and consequently amnesia. "I lived a normal and simple life in Syria" says Ibtesam, who was pro-revolution because she wanted a better life for her children. Now, she visits the center for displaced Syrian women in Kilis daily to learn hairdressing, in hopes of finding work to support her family. Ibtesam's name in Arabic means "smile".

  • Zayid, 3-days-old. His father and 4-years-old brother went for haircuts nine months ago in Aleppo and never returned home.

  • Three days before Zayid was born, I met Souad (pictured right), 23-years-old from Aleppo, with her eldest daughter (left) and two other children in a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Souad was married at 15 to a distant relative who tortured her. Nine months ago, her husband and son went missing during a bombing and Souad believes she would never see them again. Without documents, she smuggled into Turkey five months ago with her three remaining children and a fourth son on the way, seeking support and work to provide for her family.

  • Kilis, a Turkish city near the border with Syria has experienced a significant influx of Syrian refugees in recent years.

  • Handmade with salvaged materials, the sales from these dolls provided little financial assistance for Syrian women refugees who have difficulty finding employment in Kilis, Turkey.

  • Syrian women refugees at a beauty school in a center offering job training for displaced Syrians looking for work in Kilis, Turkey.


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