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Snapshots: One year on, Syrian photographers capture life after quakes

Shining a spotlight on northern Syria with photos that matter to people on the ground.

This is a photo taken close to the ground of a group of children leaving a temporary school in Jindires, a town in northwest Syria that was hit hard by last year’s earthquakes. Abdul Razzaq al-Shami/TNH
Children leave a temporary school in Jindires, a town in northwest Syria that was hit hard by last year’s earthquakes.

More than a year after the February 2023 earthquakes hit rebel-held northwest Syria hard, the lenses of these three photographers show that the disaster is very much still a part of daily life. 

These photographers have been documenting the changes (and lack of progress) in northwest Syria, an area that is home to around 4.5 million people, including 2.9 million who were displaced even before the earthquakes. 

14 February 2023 — ‘Our memories take us back to that terrifying moment’

Photographer Abdul Razzaq al-Shami turns his camera towards a project that is providing schooling and psychological support for children in Jindires, in northwest Syria’s Idlib province. Some of the students are studying in tents inside the walls of their old school, which was destroyed by the earthquakes.

He says that covering the earthquakes was doubly difficult for him – first living through it, then documenting the horrors as part of his job. Visiting the school, he stresses that – even more than a year on – quake survivors like the children in their makeshift schools still need a lot of support, “after losing so much”.

With aid groups warning that funding for Syria is critically low and tens of thousands of people still displaced by the disaster – which killed more than 55,000 people across southern Türkiye and northern Syria – many who lost their homes are battling through their second winter with little protection from the cold. 

Syria has been at war for nearly 13 years, and much of the northwest is controlled by rebels who oppose the government of President Bashar al-Assad. While a ceasefire has been in place since March 2020, the last few months have seen an increase in airstrikes on the region by al-Assad’s forces and his Russian allies. 

Long after other cameras have moved on, The New Humanitarian aims to keep the spotlight on affected people in the region, which was already in dire need of aid before this latest disaster struck. Check previous entries of “Snapshots” below to see all the photos, and to listen to the photographers explain why they matter to them. 

8 February 2023 — ‘Despite the difficult circumstances, I kept painting”

Abd Almajed Alkarh meets an 11-year-old boy in Jindires who has been painting the aftermath of the disaster. 

Ahmad Mahmoud Sanounou’s family was displaced from the Aleppo countryside by Syria’s war, and the home where they live was partially destroyed in the earthquakes. He says he kept painting even when his family was sheltering in a tent.

His paintings show destruction, life in displacement, and the emotional toll of the disaster. Sanounou’s favourite picture shows a woman in front of rubble, her head in her hands. 

6 February 2024 — ‘People are still living in tents’

To mark the one-year anniversary of the quakes, photojournalist Moawia Atrash visits Jindires. He finds that many of those who lost their homes are still sleeping in tents near the rubble of their homes, facing what he calls an “unknown future”.

Videos edited by Ciara Lee. Translation by Raieda al-Mukarkad. Text edited by Annie Slemrod.

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