Reuters won Pulitzer for photography of migrant crisis. Till here it is just a another piece of news, but then you contemplate the photos and it becomes more than just news: it becomes tragedy. Human failure has a name, it has a face, it has a life of its own that transcends national borders and dwarfs whatever discourse no matter how elegantly put. I am ashamed. I am sorry.
A selection of the winning photos:
An overcrowded inflatable boat with Syrian refugees drifts in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece after its motor broke down off the Greek island of Kos, August 11, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A Syrian refugee holding a baby in a life tube swims towards the shore after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Syrian migrants cross under a fence as they enter Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, August 27, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
Migrants and refugees beg Macedonian policemen to allow passage to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia during a rainstorm, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Hungarian policemen stand over a family of immigrants who threw themselves onto the track before they were detained at a railway station in the town of Bicske, Hungary, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
Syrian refugees walk through the mud as they cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
The whole world watches as Syria falls apart. To most of the people following the news, it is just one more sad piece of news, but to those who know Syria well, the tragedy is far beyond what words could possibly tell. I had the luck of visiting Syria twice, and since mine is not a blog for political reflections, I will stick to the cultural aspect, and share with you photos of monuments, streets and people that might not be there anymore…but first, here are some facts that, probably, you did not know about Syria:
– Damascus is the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city;
– Ugarit is home to the world’s first alphabet (the Ugaritic and Phoenician alphabets vie for which came first);
– Maaloula is one of the very few cities where Aramaic is still spoken;
– Palmyra is the site of an ancient kingdom that once rivaled Rome under Queen Zenobia;
– Syria is where the biblical ‘conversion’ of Saint Paul took place;
– Damascus, as capital of the Umayyads, was once the capital of an empire that stretched from Central Asia to the Iberian Peninsula;
– It was through the cultural refinement introduced by Umayyads from Syria that the Iberian Peninsula lived a golden age during the era of al-Andalus;
– Krak des Chevaliers is the best preserved Crusader castle in the world;
– Syria had the world’s first bimaristan (proper hospital) for the mentally challenged patients, who were treated with music and water, among other things;
– Until its invasion by the Mongols in the 13th century, Syria had the world’s best centers of glass manufacturing;
– Syria is the birthplace of Ibn al-Nafis, the first in history to describe the pulmonary circulation of blood;
– Syria is the resting place of some of the world’s greatest scientists, saints and intellectuals: Ibn Arabi, Al-Bairuni and Saint Simeon Stylites are just a few examples;
– The Umayyad Mosque of Damascus is one of Islam’s holiest places, and the template for the Great Mosque of Cordova in Spain. Both are UNESCO Word Heritage Sites>
One more thing (on a personal note): I have never met any people as genuinely generous as the Syrians, and never felt as safe anywhere in the world as I did in Damascus.
“I want to discuss how the whole world could be interested in art and on the other hand two hundred people are killed every day in Syria. Goya created a work to immortalize the killing of hundreds of innocent Spanish citizens on May 3, 1808. How many May 3rds do we have in Syria today?” – Tammam Azzam
Tammam is the Dubai-based Syrian artist whose photomontage (of Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ on the façade of a Damascene house perforated by shelling) went viral on Facebook and other social networks. There is something about his art that I like, something that he himself never referred to: the fact that war is not just about suffering or destruction or the loss of life and loved ones…war is also about a million little and anonymous stories of love, hope and human beauty.
Check his artworks for yourself here (below).