“We wanted to understand who is really ruling the country now, to see if there will be a chance of reconciliation in the close future,” photographer Christian Werner told In Sight. He and reporter Fritz Schaap drove the route in Syria that took them through the three largest cities, Aleppo, Latakia and Homs. In a two-part essay for Der Spiegel, Schaap described part of their route, which Werner’s photos echo. “Burned-out military vehicles and buses line the route while unexploded missiles jut from the brown, barren soil like cactuses.”

Each city gave a different view into the country. Aleppo symbolized the intense bombing, while Latakia, a city on the Mediterranean coast, remains largely undisturbed. The two cities offered the visual dichotomy of urban destruction versus freshly painted vacation homes. Homs falls in between as the city ruined by the war that is to be the example of reconstruction.

Werner and Schaap were in Aleppo during the official liberation announcement and Werner noted how striking it was to see people returning to the ruined streets. “Most of the homes were completely destroyed. IEDs and bombs weren’t cleared. The remaining inhabitants were searching for wood in the rubble, to burn in their small heaters. Then I saw a group of two veiled women and a highly traumatized child, straying through a destroyed makeup shop for useful remnants in the rubble. The kid found an intact flacon [bottle] of nail color. They disappeared as fast as they came.”

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