Tag Archives: Paul Conroy

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.



Escape from Syria: Photographs by William Daniels

When we arrived in Bab Amr, we began to send e-mails to editors saying we were there. We were excited, happy. Of course, we were scared of the situation, but we were happy.

On the first morning, shelling began very close to us. One boom, then a second. After the third, the Syrians with us shouted, “You have to get out!” Then a fourth rocket hit. We lost Marie Colvin, the American reporter, and my friend Rémi Ochlik, a photographer. The correspondent for Le Figaro, Edith Bouvier, was badly injured, as was Paul Conroy, a British photojournalist.

William Daniels—Panos for TIME

This week’s cover of TIME.

The Syrian army targeted Bab Amr everywhere, anywhere. There was no way to get out. One night we visited families staying underground. There were 150 people in a basement with only small lights. They had some rice and a bit of water. Everyone had a family member who had been killed. We felt very bad, thinking, Please help us get out of here; we have lost our friends. But we couldn’t say that, because they had lost everything.

The Syrians who were looking after us were never outwardly scared. They were totally confident. They would prepare medicine in the middle of the room, while we were cowering behind a wall. They were not scared of anything.

Rémi’s death affected me a lot. And perhaps it will affect me even more later. His career was taking off. He had just won the World Press Photo award. He was becoming famous. I was sure he was about to work with magazines he’d dreamed of working for, like TIME. We were excited about getting to Syria. We thought we had a lot of work. I thought, O.K., we’re here, we’ve come for this, to be inside Bab Amr. There was no time to think that maybe we’d made a mistake in going there.

I really liked Rémi. I had a lot of affection for him. Perhaps because I’m older, I felt a bit like an older brother. But sometimes he was the one advising me, especially when we were in dangerous situations. And he just disappeared, so quickly.

Rémi was cremated in Paris on March 6, the first anniversary of the Syrian revolution.

MORE: A Reporter’s Escape from Syria

French photographer William Daniels was on assignment for TIME in the besieged district of Bab Amr. On March 1, after nine days there, he and Edith Bouvier managed to safely cross the border into Lebanon.