A year after the news of a devastating chemical attack in Syria brought the conflict briefly back into the international spotlight, war continues to rage. The death toll is now approaching 200,000, and around 3 million Syrians have fled their country. But how do you report on Syria these days, when it has turned so deadly for journalists? At least 69 reporters have been killed there since the conflict began in 2011 and approximately 80 have been kidnapped. For documentary photographer Cengiz Yar, it has become impossible to go, as he did in 2012, into Aleppo with the Free Syrian Army. But he didn’t want to abandon the Syria story, so instead he spent time with the Syrian refugees that have taken shelter in bordering countries. In particular, he wanted to meet the kids who have been most affected by the crisis. In the space of two months, he photographed over 150 Syrian children in four different countries. He spoke to R&K near our Brooklyn offices during a recent visit to New York.
Roads & Kingdoms: What is the concept behind this project?
Cengiz Yar: It’s designed to put a face to the crisis in Syria. I think that a lot of the stories that are coming out of Syria and the refugee crisis overlook the individuals and are more focused on the big picture. It’s really easy to look at a number and forget that there are people behind it. There’s a real lack of connection especially between the American audience and Syrians. I wanted the American audience to care about what’s going on over there as much as I care about it. These kids have gone through really traumatic times, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be respected just like any other kid. It doesn’t mean they don’t have something fun to say or that they don’t love corn-on-the-cob or pizza… I just wanted to try to bring that home.