“She kept crying and staring at the wall with an empty look”

Argentinian photographer Rodrigo Abd and AP cameraman Ahmed Bahaddou snuck into Syria in March 2012 with the rebel group Free Syrian Army. After traveling in the country for about 10 days, they went to Idlib, located 59 kilometers west of Aleppo. The city was under attack by the Syrian Army.

Since Assad’s forces had taken control of all the neighborhoods, Add and Bahaddou spent the night of March 9th in a Red Cross hospital for security.

It was the next day when Abd came across Aida, the 32-year-old woman in his World Press Photo winning image. Aida was recovering from severe injuries after the Syrian Army had shelled her house. Her husband and two of her children died during the attack.

We interviewed Abd about the story behind his award-winning image and the role of photographers in conflict zones.

CV: Why did you decide to spend the night at the clinic?

RA: We had been in Idlib for a week. The places where we used to sleep were occupied by the Syrian army.  We knew that the clinic was the only place where we could stay. We had been moving from place to place.

CV: Could you describe the situation at the clinic?

RA: It became more dramatic every minute, because the number of wounded people increased constantly. The clinic was completely saturated. They didn’t have the supplies, the medical skills, nor the doctors to deal with a situation like that.

CV: Can you talk about the moment when you first saw Aida?

RA: She had just arrived to the clinic. She was lying on a bed. Two of her daughters, Hana (12) and Eva (13), were next to her.  She was shocked. She kept crying and staring at the wall with an empty look. Aida’s face was covered with blood. We wanted to ask her what had happened, but a family member approached us and told us not to speak with her. She didn’t knew that her husband and two of her children had been killed during the attack. We just stayed there for a few minutes because the doctor’s were starting to treat her. At one point, Hana looked at the camera and flashed the victory sign with her bloody hands.

CV: What’s the meaning behind Aida’s photo?

RA: I think the picture sums up the pain of the civilian population: individuals who have lost everything, physically and emotionally. It’s a reflection of the tragedy of thousands of Syrians who are trying to survive. People whose family members have been killed; Syrians who had to leave their homes and seek refuge in camps with thousands of compatriots.

CV: What would you say to young photographers who are considering going to a conflict zone?

RA: That going to a war zone should not be seen as an opportunity to be adventurous and feel adrenaline. People have to forget about the fantasy of the young photographer who covers conflicts to demonstrate his or her courage. You go because you have the conviction that your work will generate some reflection about what’s happening. There is a lot of planning and much to ponder before you go to these places. Why are you doing it? What is the goal? What is the idea behind the coverage?

If you’re interested in covering conflict, you may like these other posts: Reality of a Protest and Lessons Learned in Libya.

Photo Above: Aida cries as she recovers from severe injuries sustained during a Syrian military bombardment of her home, in the northern city of Idlib. Her husband and two children were killed in the attack. Rodrigo Abd/The Associated Press

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