The young creatives capturing an alternate vision of war-torn Syria on Instagram

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Anna Brech
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For six years now, Syria has been embroiled in a bloody civil war that has left more than 300,000 people dead and millions displaced, with fighting between government and rebel factions reaping devastation at every turn.

What started as a peaceful demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has erupted into a full-blown conflict, with foreign powers grappling over the fate of the besieged Middle Eastern state.

Cut off from the world by warring militias, and facing dire food shortages and widespread disease, life for many Syrian citizens is far from normal.

Yet some living in the war zone are looking to escape the realities of everyday life, by celebrating a Syria that is worlds apart from the one that makes grim headlines on an almost daily basis.

And they’re using Instagram to do it. 

#teddy #cat

A post shared by D U N Y A (@duniashabib) on

In a focus piece this week, the Guardian catches up with six photographers who are documenting their lives in Syria on Instagram, including those who choose to zoom in on images of hope.

Their arresting photos stand apart because they are so far removed from the images of ruin and despair we’ve come to associate with the country.

“I was one of Syria’s early adopters of Instagram,” says Dunia Shabib, who lives in Damascus – currently a relatively stable area under the control of government forces. 

“I set up my account in 2012 and I still think it’s perfect for sharing pretty pictures. The photograph closest to my heart is a scene I see every morning from my balcony: birds sitting on an electrical wire taking a rest from flying around. For me, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

“I try to depict the other side of life in Syria’s cities,” Iman Tijmieh tells the Guardian.

“The roses, the nature and old narrow alleyways. I want people to see my account and realise that Syria is still beautiful despite the destruction and devastation.”

A post shared by Iman Tajmieh (@iman_tajmieh) on

A post shared by Iman Tajmieh (@iman_tajmieh) on

Tijmieh is based in Tartus, a naval port that is currently under the control of Assad’s regime.

“Instagram helps to relieve the pressure of everyday life,” she says.

“My favourite picture is that of an old man entering his home in one of the old lanes in Tartus. It was Easter, you could hear hymns resonating from the nearby churches. It was magical.”

A post shared by Iman Tajmieh (@iman_tajmieh) on

A post shared by Iman Tajmieh (@iman_tajmieh) on

“The name of my account translates as ‘shot did not end’ and I use filters to edit photos to highlight the beauty in my city, which can never be damaged by the war,” says Ghassan Zarifeh (@ghassanzar), who is based in Damascus. 

“I am constantly inspired by my love for Damascus.”

Read more on the Guardian.

Images: Instagram


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.