Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Iconic Images of the Syrian War | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Aida cries as she recovers from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled her house in Idlib, north Syria, Saturday, March 10, 2012. (AP)

We cannot look away once we lay our eyes on the picture.

What first grabs our attention is her green eyes, crying in pain. Blood has dried on her bandaged head, while her hands are raised in front of her face as if protecting herself from an imminent and inevitable danger.

This is a photograph of a Syrian lady from Idlib who lost her husband and two children in an attack by the Syrian regime.

The picture is one of the many photographs depicting the suffering that Syrians experience every day. It won the prominent Pulitzer Prize for journalistic photos last week, adding to the many awards earned by photos of Syrian death and destruction this year. How can the photo of a father from Aleppo crying on the street with his dead child in his arms not painfully remain in any onlooker’s memory?

Every war has its tragic photos and immortal icons that reside in our collective memory. We cannot recall a specific war or tragedy without remembering such images.

How can we think of the Vietnam War without remembering the photo of the little girl running and screaming in pain following the Napalm shelling? How can we recall Sudan’s famine without considering the photo of the child crawling on the ground as lurking vulture awaited her death? These photos and others of the kind played a role attracting the world’s attention and calling for collective action.

Unfortunately, the Syrians have not had the same luck. These images that circulated across the world have failed to limit the number of casualties in the country and have failed to appeal to the sentiments of the Syrian regime.

The photos were taken by professional photographers, and a murderous regime contributed to making them a reality. This regime undermines the influence of such photos, and it has reached a degree of fraud that prompts it to fabricate its own photos. How else can we perceive the carefully prepared video of Asma Al-Assad embracing mothers of Syrian soldiers killed in battle on Mother’s Day?

The regime’s propaganda department attempted to portray the first lady as wholehearted, as if in mourning of the death of someone dear to her. In reality, Mrs. Assad appeared quite elegant and in good spirits; she appeared to be exploiting the tragedies of these women. It was dramatically directed in a manner that obviously suggests it is acceptable and honorable for Syrian mothers to have lost their sons for the sake of their country. In actuality, these women lost their sons for the sake of a family—the Assad family.

The photo of the lady from Idlib and the other photos that won the Pulitzer Prize display pain, suffering and blood. The portrayal of the first lady, however, is cheerful and bright, to the extent that it seems tedious and cruel.

The photographed woman from Idlib is called Aida.