Tag Archives: Men of Syria

Untold emotions in Syria…

29 May

“Now there is only blood and murder.” – the poignant words delicately spoken by Mohammad in Syria as he recalls his memories before the troubles of Syria. “My days were so beautiful with my friends, studying and working, we laughed so much.” ; reminiscing yet unable to evoke a smile with such thoughts.

Mohammad had joined the revolution from the beginning and has battled in some of the fiercest battles in the country. He also helps at a police station trying to bring order and a policing system to be respected by all in the region; a gruelling task amidst the chaos of the country.

Protest in early 2012 in Syria.

A different energy; a protest in early 2012 in Syria.

I first met Mohammad over 2 years ago, and have watched the deterioration to his personality and mind frame. A young man in his early 20’s with boyish charms, full of energy, laughter, and joking often; he now carries a colossal weight of overwhelming emotions he can only hold internally. His smile forgotten and health taking a rapid deterioration with a diet of cigarettes and coffee in excess with little else; like many of the men in Syria now.

As the crisis in Syria rages on, the focus is all too often on the horrors of the war lacking anything in-depth on the emotions being suffered within the people of Syria living through this nightmare. Young men like Mohammad seem forgotten in all of this, and are only allowed to be strong men, fighters, warriors of their country; they suffer through torture, violence, scenes of devastation more than anyone in Syria, at times they are subject to sexual violence within their torture suffering severe humiliation, when they are not in suffering they have an abundance of pressures placed upon their shoulders; caring for their family, providing food for them, shelter for them, being the figure of strength is all that is expected of them with the cultural pressures, only now there is the added pressure of the most devastating crisis in our world.

Countless people have lost their lives in this war in Syria. Countless men have lost their lives fighting for their country in what was a revolution that began over 3 years ago. A branding of ‘Jihadi’ as an umbrella term is the perception they know is given to them forbidden to hold any emotion. These same men who first picked up arms done it to defend their area, to protect their family, yet the progression of this crisis in Syria has escalated past anything they imagined changing their lives into a never-ending horror story; that is for the few who are left from the beginning in 2011.

It is no longer a battle against a regime for them, it is also a battle against an ever-increasing list of armed groups, extremists and their fellow country men who even once fought by their side. Battles they never envisioned with the unity that was once so strong against the regime in the beginning. Many have lost their lives, left the country to try to have a life seeing no future in Syria for now, or turned to extremist groups.

These men once had lives the that echo globally; nights with friends full of laughter & memories to be recounted again and again, tales of love; flirting with girls in university, exchanging love notes with girlfriends in private, dancing through the night at their friends weddings, celebrating their holy holidays with grand family gathers, and all the typical things that young men do in their life across the globe. Many would have no clue of how to use a gun, let alone be able to name the many kinds of weapons as they do now in Syria. While these are all relatively simple things I speak off in day-to-day life, these also have serious repercussions on the mental state of these men with all the pressures they face today.

It is not uncommon now for many to wish for death to come knocking on their door now with different reasons; naturally the extremists are often speaking of death to come their way, as do all fighters as a general in the culture being ready to die proudly for the fight they choose, I am sure terms such as ‘Allahu Akbar’ with videos of beheadings will sadly come to the minds of people who may read this uneducated in the culture to understand my point in what I am trying to convey. There is however a much more serious reason and that is from PTSD, depression, exhaustion and all the stress that they have to endure, stresses that have also been the product of some suicides in men from Syria, with suicide being something far from common in the culture.

The extreme exhaustion of the tragedy they are witnessing daily is simply too much for them, sleepless years have now gone by, never-ending trauma in their beloved country, and those far distant memories of the joyous life they can just about recount now are all simply too much to bear.

Through all of this Mohammad holds a kindness in his heart, an innocence and a deep care for the people in his country. He has not turned to corruption or any criminal activities. He asks me to please see a family he knows who really have nothing and shares just how awful it is for them as there is no man left in the family and they struggle too much, “Is there a way to help them?” he pleads to me.

Mohammad is a young man suffering terribly through this. Determined to help his country, yet at a loss now on what the future shall be, far too grown beyond his age with pains that will never leave him, knowing that his future is in turmoil whether the fighting ends tomorrow or not.

If friends have not been killed, they have left, changed to extremist thinking breaking bonds that once existed, some friendships unravelled earlier in the revolution with the pressures of choosing legions to the regime or a free Syria.

Funeral1

Another day, another death. His close friend of many years, from before the revolution has been killed.

“I just wish to die to not feel anymore pain.” expressed in a state of sheer exhaustion as Mohammad leaves to his friends burial.

 

(Real name has been changed to be Mohammad in this blog)

 

Syria : Male Anguish

16 Jun

As it is Father’s day, I wanted to focus on a few issues the Syrian men are facing. While none of this is new, it is just not spoken about as much as I believe it should be.

Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy - Syria

Syria – Men in Syria laugh and joke together, humour being something Syrians are well-known for.

Today thousands of children are without their father’s. Today thousands of children from Syria are not only without their father’s, but many have been witness to graphic visions of their father’s and loved ones deaths.

While we are all aware many men who have lost their lives to the conflict in Syria have been soldiers, giving their lives to fight for their country, fighting for what they see as protecting their family; there are thousands of men who have lost their lives while trying to just stay alive and not partaking in any activity of the war.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy  - Syria (3)   Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy - Syria (1)
Syria – Some of the young men in Syria

Countless numbers of men are currently under arrest in Syria, their fate unknown, suffering horrendous torture that is unspeakable off for the majority of men should they survive. Some men have disclosed details of their ordeals of diminishing humiliation  in prisons in Syria with me, shocking accounts of crimes past any form of comprehension.

When I am with men in Syria, I am yet to hear someone not wish for death instead of being arrested and tortured because they know just how bad it is. As I am sure most of you know, many will always say they keep a bullet for themselves; I even met one man of the Free Syrian Army who shot his best friend as he was being dragged away by a government militia known as the shabiha, telling me that his best friend would have done this for him also – to take your own life, or that of a loved ones just to escape torture is a small glimpse into just how much suffering these men undergo.

Not only are these men tortured to extremes that no-one will comprehend unless they have experienced such a horrendous ordeal, they are subject to sexual violence. This is something that few men will ever speak off feeling such shame, but it is used rather commonly within torture in Syria. While it is no secret that men are subject to such violence, it is just spoken off rarely. Many men in Syria share with me that they even believe that men are raped as much as women in the war if not more.

Men lack the support to deal with such abuses, men are to be seen as strong humans especially in the Middle East so support networks are lacking for men who have suffered such horrific crimes.

Some men have been known to committed suicide since the violence in Syria, mainly due to the fact that they are unable to provide for their wife and children anymore. Unable to help them, unable to find work, unable to protect them.

Men of Syria are extremely determined unlike most cultures, Market Street of Zaatari Refugee camp in Jordan being a prime example of the entrepreneurship skills of the Syrian men, however opportunities are lacking.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy (61) Photographer-YasminAlTellawy (60)
Market street, Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

The men of Syria are not only subject to severe torture and sexual violence they also bear all the pressures of providing for their families. The young men are also facing pressures for choosing to not fight in Syria. Many men do not wish to fight in Syria, but many are increasing finding a problem with this telling them they should be in Syria fighting for their country.

I remember close to the beginning of the war in Syria being with young men who had joined the Free Syrian Army, watching them as they chanted songs of revolution on their way to frontline battles, but I could see their fear underneath it all, I could see these young men’s worries behind their eyes. Now I meet the same young men, few off whom are still alive, if not severely injured, and they are hardened soldiers, a natural progression of any war of course, but I do wonder what their future shall be if they are lucky enough to stay alive to see the end of the war in Syria; A country steeped in deep history and culture.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy  - Syria

Syria – Brothers in war. Both suffered serious injuries while fighting for the Free Syrian Army.

The long list of issues facing men, women and children of Syria is ever-increasing.

A generation of children are to grown up without fathers, mothers, and without both parents in many cases. A generation of children who will never know their fathers past tales of war and tragedy.

Syria is a human tragedy. These are human beings, fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, friends, loved ones, people just like you and I in this world. People whom once had lives like you and I, jobs, homes, everything just as you and I can have an opportunity off. Syrians seem to have become numbers, daily figures of death, injured and tragedy. One life is too much to be lost in war, but in Syria there are a minimum of 93,000 (according to official UN numbers) killed, which is most definitely much less than the actual death count to date, never mind those missing, under torture, and of course the millions homeless and having fled the country.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy  - Syria

Syria – Once a university student, turned Free Syrian Army soldier shot in the neck, now paralysed from the neck down with some movement in one arm only


Talk of weapons, politics and all that is without questions extremely crucial to discuss is pushed to the top of the priority list with humanizing the war in Syria secondary. These are lives that are being destroyed and lost every day. These are lives of human beings, each soul has a name, a story just as important as the other in this world.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Children of Syria in Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan