VIDEO INTERVIEW: ‘Desperate’ Syrian civilians taking up arms

September 27, 2012

PERPIGNAN, France (AlertNet) – When the uprising in Syria spiralled into bloody conflict last year, French photojournalist Mani felt the urge to document what was happening, even though wars weren’t his usual subject.

Mani became a professional freelance photographer three years ago, having ditched a career as a primary school teacher. He spent time covering Sufism and transgender communities in South Asia, but always had a soft spot for Syria where he studied Arabic during his university years.

Through friends and contacts in Syria, he was able to get into the violence-torn city of Homs last October.

There he took pictures of civilians and fighters caught up in the shelling and sniper fire as the Syrian government cracked down on opposition groups. With rebels and activists being arrested in public hospitals, many were forced to seek treatment in makeshift clinics lacking equipment and trained medical staff.

Those images won Mani – who doesn’t use his real name to avoid identification – a prize from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Humanitarian Visa d’Or award is for photojournalism showing the difficulty of carrying out medical activities safely and unhindered in armed conflict and other emergencies.

AlertNet spoke to Mani at the Visa pour l’Image international photojournalism festival in the southern French city of Perpignan, where he received the award earlier this month.

Fresh from another trip to Syria, he said people who had yet to flee embattled cities like Homs were struggling to get hold of basic necessities. “The area is sealed off, so very few things can enter. I heard reports that they are eating the food they have stored for winter,” he told AlertNet.

He also described the fear among civilians in a village where he stayed near the western city of Hama. Here, he said, a “massacre” had taken place two months before, in which more than 60 percent of the community had been killed in a government-backed attack.

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