Syrian Photographer Hamid Khatib Evades Death to Capture Life

This post is cross-posted from Syria Untold.

“There is no Hamid the photographer without the revolution. Hopefully there will still be one when the revolution ends.” These are the words of young award-winning Syrian photographer, Hamid Khatib, who joined the uprising in October 2011, after completing his obligatory military service. With his camera, he has captured a generation of young people who took to the streets, surprising older generations by demanding the impossible.


Boy makes weapon in Aleppo, by Hamid Khatib. Source: the author´s facebook page

Boy makes weapon in Aleppo, by Hamid Khatib. Source: The author's Facebook page


Children and war

Like many other Syrians, Hamid Khatib, 23, describes himself as “reborn after the uprising” in an interview with Syria Untold.

He started recording videos of demonstrations and the repression of protesters by regime forces and soon switched to photography. His photo “Rebel boy makes weapon” was chosen by Reuters as one of the best pictures of 2013. Since then, he has worked for the news agency, capturing moments of destruction, hope, despair, loss and daily life in Syria.

The award-winning photograph shows a 10-year-old boy, Issa, carrying a mortar shell in a weapons factory of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo.

“I had wanted to capture the effects of war on children for a while,” he explained. “I thought I would make a series with different children, but when I met Issa and his father I was struck by their story and could not stop focusing on it.”

“Issa works with his father at the weapons factory for 10 hours a day, every day, except Fridays. His story has come to mean a lot to me, on a personal level,” said Khatib.

“The situation in Syria is out of a journalist's control,” he said. “You can only adjust yourself to evolving events on the ground. But I personally prefer portraying daily life in the country, and the side effects of war on people.”

A child in Raqqa, by Hamid Khatib. Source: The author´s Facebook page.

A child in Raqqa, by Hamid Khatib. Source: The author's Facebook page.


A journey of death and love

Born in Aleppo in 1990, Khatib began covering the uprising around the time it became militarized. After completing his own military service, he moved to the United Arab Emirates for work, but soon traveled back to Aleppo incognito. “I wanted to show the world what the Syrian regime's state of terror was really like,” he says. 

Over these past years he has not only encountered death and destruction but has found love too. He fell in love with Nour Kelze, a former elementary school teacher, who became a Reuters photographer in 2012 after taking pictures with her cell phone. The two are now married.

Syrian photographers Hamid Khatib and Nour Kelze, working in Aleppo. Source: Khatib´s facebook page.

Syrian photographers Hamid Khatib and Nour Kelze, working in Aleppo. Source: Khatib's Facebook page.


Nour and Hamid work hand in hand in Aleppo, and they have been on the brink of death several times.

“I was standing on that same spot, but she asked me to change places with her, to take a few photos from there,” Hamid explained. “She is very strong and is not afraid of anything. Suddenly, I heard the shelling, and saw smoke coming out from everywhere, and could not think of anything but Nour, ‘Where is Nour…?'” He heard her voice calling him, and took her to a field hospital. She was wounded on her left foot and suffered shrapnel wounds to her hands.

On another occasion, Hamid witnessed shelling by the regime during one of the many demonstrations he attended in Bustan al-Qasr, a town well-known for turning wedding celebrations into massive demonstrations for freedom

Bustan al-Qasr made headlines in international media in January 2013, when dozens of men who had disappeared at regime checkpoints were discovered at the Queiq river, all shot in the head with their hands bound with plastic ties behind their back.

“Most of the people protesting next to me were wounded or killed in that demonstration, but I survived,” Hamid said. 

He also once had a brush with death on his first day back in his hometown, Azaz – in northern Aleppo – which he had not visited for three years. All his relatives, five whole families, were sharing a two-storey house. When he was awoken by shelling, he ran downstairs to see if the women and children had survived, and found them crying in fear that the men upstairs had been killed. The missiles kept falling throughout the night. Around 150 neighbors were killed in Azaz that night, and 40 houses were turned to rubble.

Death has been merciful to Hamid, but not to friends and colleagues such as Molhem Barakat, an 18-year-old photographer who was killed while covering a battle for a hospital in Aleppo on December 20. Hamid is committed to continuing his work, in order to honor Molhem and all the martyrs who lost their lives for a better Syria. “Because there really was no Syria before the revolution,” he added. “There is no Syria without the struggle for freedom that so many have given their lives for.”

This post is cross-posted from Syria Untold.

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