Tag Archives: Alessio Romenzi

Syria’s Agony: The Photographs That Moved Them Most

Syria has always been a tough place to cover for journalists. Confidently authoritarian with a ruthlessly formidable security and intelligence apparatus, Syria has long been one of the most policed of Arab police states. So when some Syrians defied their government to take to the streets in the southern city of Dara‘a in March 2011, the temptation to cover the story was overwhelming for many, including myself.

The story of the Syrian uprising is ultimately the tale of regular citizens silencing the policeman in their heads, breaking their own personal barriers of fear to speak, to demonstrate, to demand, to reject, to no longer be afraid, to live in dignity. It’s about what these people will do, what they will endure, and what they are prepared to become to achieve their aims.

It is also the story of a significant portion of the population that considers the regime of President Bashar Assad the country’s best option, because they believe in its Baathist secular ideology or directly benefit from its patronage or don’t have confidence in Assad’s opponents and fear what may come next. Understanding what this segment of the population will accept in terms of state violence, the narratives they choose to believe and their concerns is a critical component of the story, though one that is harder to obtain, given the paucity of press visas issued by Damascus.

The only way to tell the Syrian story, really tell it, is to be on the ground with the men, women and children who are central to it, whether in Syria on in the neighboring states that many Syrians have fled to. It isn’t easy to do — the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York City, has dubbed Syria the “most dangerous place for journalists in the world” — but it is essential. Nothing beats being there. There is no compensating for seeing, feeling, touching, capturing, living the story.

The images here are a testament to the power of being on the ground, of sharing and capturing a moment for posterity, of translating an element of a person’s life through imagery.

Take a look at the photos. Can you place yourself in these situations? Can you imagine what it must be like? What do you feel when you look at the images? Are you drawn into them, or are you repulsed? Can you relate to them, or are they too alien? This is the power of translating on-the-ground reporting to an audience. This is why we must and will continue to document the Syrian uprising from inside the country when we can, and we — members of the foreign press corps — are not alone. Sadly, as is often the case, local journalists (both professional and citizen) have disproportionately borne the brunt of the casualties in this crisis. Still, this story is not about members of the media and what we go through to tell it; it’s about the Syrians who entrust their testimonies, their experiences, their hopes, their fears, their images to us in the hope that they will help explain what is happening in one of the most pivotal states in the Middle East.

—Rania Abouzeid


This collection of testimonies is the third in a series by TIME documenting iconic images of conflict. See “9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” and “Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” for more.

Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Reporting by Vaughn Wallace.



The Syrian Civil War: Photographs by Alessio Romenzi

The forces of President Bashar Assad have been relentless. They have continued to pound the predominantly Sunni enclave of Bab Amr in the city of Homs. They have struck at the rebellious town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border. Damascus is believed to be planting landmines near the Lebanese and Turkish borders even as the regime masses more troops nearby to deal with insurrectionists in the Idlib region in the northwest of the country. Meanwhile, in al-Qsair, a town south of Homs, government marksmen continued to take their toll. Says Alessio Romenzi, a photographer on assignment in the area for TIME: “The snipers do not sleep.”

Romenzi continues to document the work of the Free Syrian Army, a loose franchise of militias who are trying to coordinate their disparate campaigns against the Bashar government. Slowly, they are gathering weapons—though the increased demand for guns has kicked up the prices of Kalashnikovs. TIME’s Rania Abouzeid spent a day with FSA sympathizers trying to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to use against Damascus’ forces. Other FSA cells have already started using their own strung together versions of IEDs. The targets may include military trucks which will then be used to block roads to impede government supply lines. But most of all, they hope the IEDs will stop Assad’s tanks, which have been used not only to blast rebel emplacements but also reportedly to crush the regime’s opponents—physically.

More photographs from Syria by Alessio Romenzi can be seen here

Read more about the situation in Syria in the magazine: Syria’s Clashing Armies

Syria Under Siege: Photographs by Alessio Romenzi

Syria is a country with two clashing armies. On one side is President Bashar Assad and his more than 200,000 men, tanks, mortars and weapons from Russia. Opposing them is a phenomenon called the Free Syrian Army, a loose franchise of lightly armed military defectors and, in some areas, civilians, who are waging a growing number of guerrilla campaigns in their hometowns and cities. The FSA fighters count on weapons that enter clandestinely from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. Every Syrian man who flees across the border is “FSA in waiting,” according to a human-rights activist in Jordan, where Kalashnikovs have been going for about $1,600. Most of the men go back into Syria as soon as they secure a weapon, he says.

Back in their homeland, they face a regime that is out to annihilate all who oppose it. Photographer Alessio Romenzi was among the enemies of the Assad government, with fighters of the Free Syrian Army and people of Bab Amr, a rebellious district in the besieged city of Homs. On assignment for TIME, he took shelter with locals in a basement of a home in Bab Amr. There, no one dares to step outside or even venture upstairs for fear of government shells crashing onto them. Bodies have been dragged into homes from the streets so they will not rot out in the open. It is too dangerous to hold funerals. Romenzi counted 25 civilian fatalities in just two hours of bombardment in the area. As he wrote in an e-mail, “The word ‘safe’ is not in our dictionary these days.”

Romenzi is a freelance photographer based in Italy. You can see more of his work here.

Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Follow her on Twitter at @raniaab.