In 2011, during the Arab Spring uprisings, peaceful protests also broke out in Syria. Protesters there wanted Bashar al-Assad, the country’s leader, to undertake democratic reforms. But Assad had no plans to do that. Instead, the Syrian government responded with violence. In turn, some of the people protesting joined forces with military defectors and formed the Free Syrian Army, seeking to overthrow the government. The conflict would end up becoming a full-blown war by 2012 and is continuing.
For most of the war, journalists have had trouble getting into the country because of the dangers. Many have been kidnapped and killed. And, of course, Syrian journalists have been working under extraordinarily dangerous conditions. Photojournalist Hosam Katan is one of those Syrian journalists, and his new book, “Yalla Habibi: Living with War in Aleppo’” (Kehrer Verlag, 2018), takes us into the conflict that has been ravaging his country for nearly a decade.
Katan says in the book that while growing up in Aleppo, he never imagined war could happen. He was just 17 when the protests broke out in 2011. He decided to pick up a camera and document what was going on after the Syrian government responded with violence. He explains his decision in more detail: “I felt the responsibility to document what was happening around me. As many international news organizations were pulling out of the country for security reasons, I realized the importance to not let the events and people in Aleppo go unseen.”
Katan’s work was dangerous. In May 2015, he was shot by a sniper, but that didn’t deter him. After seeking treatment in Turkey, he returned to Aleppo and continued to work until the end of 2015.
“Yalla Habibi: Living with War in Aleppo” is Katan’s personal account of the conflict in his homeland. The images in the book weave between harrowing scenes of destruction to small moments of seeming normalcy, showing how the people of Aleppo have tried to keep their sanity and their dignity under extreme duress.
Katan covered the war in Syria between 2012 and 2015. From 2013 to 2015, he worked as a freelance photographer for Reuters. He is now studying photojournalism at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, Germany.
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