|An internal refugee camp on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria|
|A war torn street in Aleppo|
The Syrian civil war, which began in the spring of 2011 during the height of the Arab Spring, quickly slipped from popular protests into full scale conflict as Syrian civilians and defecting military personnel banded together in force to oppose the violence perpetrated against non-violent demonstrators demanding the overthrow of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. What started as a movement with rallying cries of freedom, liberation, and revolution, has now been bludgeoned to anything but that. Four years into the conflict, over 200,000 people -estimated conservatively- have lost their lives; over 40% of Syria's population has been displaced with millions of refugees fleeing into Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians remain internally displaced inside Syria - too poor, sick, young, or elderly to escape the brutality of war. In my work with various units, brigades, and fighters of the FSA inside Syria and Turkey, many of the soldiers referenced a struggle for freedom and revolution, even if their tone and emotion suggested something otherwise. For some, the battle for independence is a true and honest driving force. Yet, for an ever increasing number of combatants now on their fourth year of a calamitous war, much of these phrases have become empty rhetoric; a piece of propaganda you tell yourself over, and over again to muster the courage to go back the front, and fight.
|A Syrian woman walking through an internal refugee camp around Aleppo|
|FSA soldier inspecting a neighborhood after being bombed by the Syrian Gov.|
|A Syrian boy recovering in a field hospital|
The more severely wounded cases were unloaded from the ambulance and brought below to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) located in the basement. A child, no more than ten or eleven years of age, already unconscious from pain and shock by the time they arrived, was laid out on a cot-style bed with a mangled left leg. While the unconscious boy was having the remnants of his shin and calf wrapped back together in that dark, cool, crumbling concrete room, the final vehicle arrived carrying a middle-aged man groaning in agony. He had taken a direct hit, and had shards of shrapnel lodged into the gaping hole of his right thigh, mere centimeters from his main artery. Needing immediate surgery, but unable to receive the proper medical attention due to the field hospital's severe lack of equipment, the doctors gave him anesthesia to temporarily stop his suffering while the doctors gathered together to discuss their makeshift options.
|Doctors operating on a wounded civilian's leg|
Eventually the doctors decided to operate to their best potential, and I suited up with the surgeons to document the parts of the procedure. For two hours the three surgeons worked with the situation presented to them: trying to stem the bleeding, retrieve each piece of shrapnel, and mend the leg while attempting to keep the main artery intact; all under a single lamp, while we all lost our footing and slipped on the blood covered floor. Ultimately, the man was stabilized, but still needed medical stents which the hospital could not acquire for another four days. After being sutured up, he was moved to a bed near the young boy who still lay unconscious: it was now a waiting game, a matter of luck if the stents would show up in time, or at all, before further complications claim his life.
|Asthmatic man being treated in a field hospital|
Leaning in closer with his hands clasped together, he concluded in a somber tone before heading off to treat another patient, "This hospital is constantly targeted by government bombs. Already, we've been bombed six times. Six! And three of those were last month. Inshallah [thanks be to God] we've been able to stay open, but people in the world don't know about the terrible things happening to us. We're being targeted for being a hospital. But what are we supposed to do? These are my people, my neighbors; I swore an oath as a doctor to help people who need treatment, but they [the Syrian government] wants us finished."
|Two of the surgeons in the field hospital's O.R.|
As we continually watch the tragedies of this war deepen, while listening to politicians claiming to know the best solution, I'm witnessing the ever growing amount of preventable suffering occurring to innocent people being treated like chess pieces, mere pawns in a global bid for supremacy. This is no longer a war for freedom - it is now a war for power, and whichever side eventually arises from the ashes with the most Pyrrhic of victories will claim the war to be over, while placing a flag atop the pile of rubble that was once a nation.
|A bombarded apartment block in Aleppo|
|A Syrian child idles outside during a lull in violence|
|Man walking through a residential alleyway before a barrel bombardment|
|Residential alleyway after a government bombardment|
|Destroyed vehicles line the roadways into Aleppo, Syria|
|From inside the crater of a barrel bomb attack|