The aftermath of the Syrian conflict

Added on by Annie Ling.

This September, I had the privilege of meeting and working with displaced Syrian women seeking refuge in neighboring Turkey. Their stories and resilience is moving, and being a witness to women supporting women in displaced communities is what I hope to continue doing, as soon as I can find more funding and support to go back and expand the work in other neighboring countries.

In the meantime, here is a first preview of the beginning of this ongoing project, which was made possible thanks to the NYFA Photography Fellowship

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


Zayid, 3-days-old. His father and 4-year-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.


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.

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.


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.

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


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

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

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".


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".

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. 


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.


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.

Iman, 51-years-old from Damascus, battled a serious case of cancer in her backbone for 20 years until 2011 when she was miraculously healed. Her fight with cancer ended as the revolution and fighting began in Syria. As her neighborhood was stormed and civilians were massacred, she worked as a nurse to aid the injured, putting to practice everything she learned from years of undergoing cancer treatment as a hospitalized patient. 


Iman, 51-years-old from Damascus, battled a serious case of cancer in her backbone for 20 years until 2011 when she was miraculously healed. Her fight with cancer ended as the revolution and fighting began in Syria. As her neighborhood was stormed and civilians were massacred, she worked as a nurse to aid the injured, putting to practice everything she learned from years of undergoing cancer treatment as a hospitalized patient. 

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.   


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.   

Iman took advantage of her foreign appearance to smuggle supplies for civilians in need during the revolution. On April 13, 2014, Iman smuggled herself and two girlfriends into Turkey, looking for work and surviving off of $30USD monthly UN food vouchers. A social worker (also a Syrian refugee) found Iman and offered her a place to stay at her barely furnished apartment in Kilis. Here, she settles into an empty room with her backpack and few possessions.


Iman took advantage of her foreign appearance to smuggle supplies for civilians in need during the revolution. On April 13, 2014, Iman smuggled herself and two girlfriends into Turkey, looking for work and surviving off of $30USD monthly UN food vouchers. A social worker (also a Syrian refugee) found Iman and offered her a place to stay at her barely furnished apartment in Kilis. Here, she settles into an empty room with her backpack and few possessions.

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) 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. 

A shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. 


A shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. 

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. (Last I heard, a woman running this women's center had convinced Fathya's family to decline the Turkish man's proposal.)


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. (Last I heard, a woman running this women's center had convinced Fathya's family to decline the Turkish man's proposal.)

Late afternoon in Kilis, a Turkish city near the Syrian border.


Late afternoon in Kilis, a Turkish city near the Syrian border.

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 3 million seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Syria, the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today, now enters its fourth year. 

Gender-based violence, one of the world’s most widespread human rights violations and public health issues, escalates among displaced communities. As the Syrian refugee population continues to grow exponentially and resources have begun to diminish, harsh living conditions and circumstances impose a threat to young women 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.”