December 8, 2015, Reyhanli, Turkey. One of the boys plays with roots, the only toys the children have.
At first I wasn’t consciously working on it. I was just mostly hanging out around Syrians who I knew from my work inside. As I spent time with them and their families I began to document what I saw. When all the news outlets turned to the streams of Syrians entering Europe, I stayed and continued working in southern Turkey.
It was the less glamorous angle, but I’m not really a news photographer; I’m a documentary photographer. I didn’t want to run off and chase a new story without completing the one I was working on.
“I haven’t talked to every Syrian; I can’t make a generalization.”
December 8, 2015, Reyhanli, Turkey. Men stop in to drink tea. There is little work in the countryside, especially in winter.
In Turkey, Syrians are not considered refugees. They are called “guests.” Once they register they are entitled to access to health care and ostensibly some food aid or relief. How this is received seems to vary wildly, and depends on the situation in which they’ve settled.
A Syrian refugee boy plays with a stick. He is wearing his father’s shoes because he has none that t him. More than 200 Syrian refugee families live among this cluster of seven villages next to the Syrian/Turkish border.
March 9, 2014, Gorentas, Turkey.
July 28, 2016, Gaziantep, Turkey. Perla imitates her dad talking on the phone.
February 22, 2016, Gaziantep, Turkey. Ali’s sons Hassan and Bashir were able to move out of their shared house and both have rented homes for their own families and are doing well.
December 4, 2015, Reyhanli, Turkey. Psychologist Mirfat Suleiman, who specializes in Gender Based Violence (GBV) counseling.
September 14, 2015, Reyhanli, Turkey. The staff continue training under doctors in Ankara and Germany and are seeking ISPO certi cation (International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics).
March 16, 2014, Gaziantep, Turkey. Hannan is worried about their kids. They have not been in school for years, and they have some emotional problems because of what they have seen. The family doesn’t pay rent, the homeowner allows them to live there for free, but they are worried that at some point they will be forced to leave.
December 2, 2015, Gaziantep, Turkey. Mahmoud left Syria after being detained by the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. “I was arrested once for two days at a checkpoint that belonged to Jabhat al-Nusra just for wearing a necklace, which is forbidden in [extreme interpretations of] Islam,” he says. Being a gay man led him to seek asylum in Germany, where he now lives with his sister.
“These people lived lives in Syria not too different from your own”
July 30, 2016, Gaziantep, Turkey. Syrian refugee Taher Hamada takes photos as his nieces, who live in the U.S., care for his four-month-old daughter, Tamara, at his apartment in southern Turkey.
September 17, 2015, Reyhanli, Turkey. A therapist hugs an autistic boy during a therapy session.
The failure of that viewpoint is an inability to put yourself in the shoes of that iPhone-carrying Syrian on TV. It’s an ignorance of what Syrian society was like before the war, or indeed what the world is like now. These devices are ubiquitous. If you were forced to leave your home with a matter of a few minutes notice, what would you grab first? Phone, documents, cash, a few clothes, and your kids.
These people had jobs and they were a part of a small but growing middle class. Syria was a well-educated society before the war. And so all those people with mobile phones had to flee when war came knocking on their door. I hope this book helps you see them as no different than you.