Conversations: Photographing the Front Lines of Wadi Daif

Omar, 21, dropped out of university to join the Syrian revolution in March 2011 and has taken photos on the battlefield ever since.

Written by Alison Tahmizian Meuse Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

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As a media activist, he’s covered the front lines of the assault on Wadi Daif military base *in the northwest province of Idlib, a rebel onslaught that began in October 2012. Most of the residents of his hometown, Maaret al-Numan, have been displaced.*

He explains to Syria Deeply why he cut off ties with his friends living in government-controlled areas and why there is no “neutral” ground left in Syria.

I had a brother, Abdullah Saud, was arrested eight days before the revolution began because of his online calls for protests. I used to do photography as a hobby, but when the role of media rose to importance with the revolution I began prioritizing it. My work evolved and I started distributing my images in the news and on revolutionary Facebook pages. I photograph the battlefronts and show the progress of the aid work. I show the bombardments and destruction and the injuries in the field hospitals.

These days everything revolves around the battles for Wadi Daif [a military base that has been under rebel assault since last October] and Hamidiyeh. We stopped for some days to change the strategy and operations, but the battles are ongoing and will continue until the liberation of Wadi Daif and Hamidiyeh is achieved and we struggle our way to Hama province. The biggest difficulties are the [rebel’s] lack of ammunition and military support.

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Before Maaret al-Numan became a battlefront, our families would do our laundry and cooking, but now we all depend on ourselves. We either buy food from the market or cook light meals like noodles for ourselves. I used to help my mother with the housework so I learned a lot from her, even cooking. We are all guys out here and we do our laundry by hand.

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My mother and family are displaced in an area near Maaret al-Numan, but I can only manage to visit them once a month because of the pressures of my work. Whenever I see my mother she starts weeping for joy, as if I’ve returned from the dead. Thank God I have a family that is patient, loves me and supports the revolution. They support my work and encourage me to continue. My father is director of the Orient field hospital, so I help transport the wounded and dead.

Our city had 150,000 people and now they are all displaced after suffering from around-the-clock bombardments. Seventy percent are either refugees in Turkey or displaced in neighboring areas or provinces, and the other 30 percent go back and forth to the city. The field hospital is never empty because of the injuries and the inflamed battlefronts. Now people rely mainly on aid to survive. Different relief agencies provide food while others provide blankets and clothing for the winter. Young activists help secure these supplies through organizations from abroad.

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I want to go back to university of course. At this point, I have no time for fun. In our spare time we will go to an observation point or meet with one of the brigade commanders or clean the guns.

I still have many old friends living normal lives in government-held areas. They have all graduated now.

I have severed ties with them permanently. I do not care for people who are weak in their duty towards the country and its people. This revolution is about taking a stand. This is our country, our honor and our families. Syria is for all, but those who controlled the money and power will be judged in time.  And anyone who had a hand in the bloodshed should be tried in court.

 

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