SYRIAN DESPAIR, 27 April 2016

A Syrian boy is comforted as he cries next to the body of a relative who died in a reported airstrike on April 27, 2016 in the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Soukour in the northern city of Aleppo.  / AFP / KARAM AL-MASRI        (Photo credit should read KARAM AL-MASRI
SYRIAN DESPAIR, 27 April 2016

KARAM AL-MASRI: “On 27 April 2016, I took this picture following Syrian government airstrikes on a hospital in the Sukkari neighborhood of east Aleppo. It was nine in the evening and I was at home when I heard the sound of a huge explosion. Fifteen minutes later, I headed to the area and saw that the hospital had been hit by several strikes, one hitting the hospital directly and the others the area behind it. I saw many dead people, some who had been walking past the hospital when the strikes hit, others who had been patients at the hospital or medical staff during their shift.

After I finished taking pictures of the hospital and the surrounding area, I decided to go to the medical clinic. Upon arriving I saw many bodies wrapped in plastic bags, some of them completely disfigured and others waiting to be identified. A couple of minutes later, this boy came into the clinic to look for his mother and little brother. He immediately recognized his brother’s body and burst into tears next to it.

He had lost a large number of his relatives. His father was killed not long ago as well. He was crying next to his brother’s body as some aid workers surrounded him trying to calm him down and console him. On that day that boy lost his mother too. Her body was in a big plastic bag under a table. Her face was completely deformed, disfigured, and he couldn’t recognize her in the beginning but was able to identify her later on through gold jewelry she was wearing.

The boy was crying and saying, ”I have no one left. Who will take care of me? Who will prepare food for me? Where will I live? Who will play with me?” At that moment the director of the clinic, Mohamed Kaheil, who is seen standing behind the boy comforting him, tried to calm him down, telling him, ”We are all your family members and siblings.”

When I started working as a photographer these scenes used to scare me and hurt me a lot. I remember the first time I took photos of people injured following an airstrike. I lost consciousness. I fainted after seeing people with cut-off limbs, and smelling blood and dead bodies. I have come up with a coping mechanism in order to deal with such harsh and cruel scenes. I no longer look at them with my eyes, I only look through the viewfinder while hiding behind my lens. I feel that my camera protects me as it creates a barrier between me and the reality of these scenes.

As for this specific image of the boy, it resonates a lot with me. I have a symbolic connection with this child, who reminds me of myself when I lost my family in shelling three years ago”.