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FREE SYRIAN ARMY

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Images from the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting were seen around the word. The photographs, showing both reaction and grief, were a reminder of the other tragedies from the year, including the Aurora theater shooting. In an image provided by NASA Tuesday Dec. 18, 2012 NASA’s Cassini spacecraft delivered a glorious view of [...]

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by Sophia Jones

  • A Free Syrian Army fighter in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 21.

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    A Free Syrian Army fighter in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 21.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • A Free Syrian Army fighter dodges sniper fire in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    A Free Syrian Army fighter dodges sniper fire in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • Free Syrian Army fighters exchange fire with regime forces in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Free Syrian Army fighters exchange fire with regime forces in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • Free Syrian Army fighters take cover from a Syrian attack helicopter in the Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 23.

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    Free Syrian Army fighters take cover from a Syrian attack helicopter in the Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 23.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • A Syrian civilian shows marks of torture after his release from regime forces in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 23.

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    A Syrian civilian shows marks of torture after his release from regime forces in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 23.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • Free Syrian Army fighters take position in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Free Syrian Army fighters take position in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • Free Syrian Army fighters exchange fire with regime forces in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Free Syrian Army fighters exchange fire with regime forces in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • Young Syrians run for cover as a Free Syrian Army fighter returns sniper fire in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 21.

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    Young Syrians run for cover as a Free Syrian Army fighter returns sniper fire in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 21.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • Free Syrian Army fighters take cover from helicopter fire in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 21.

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    Free Syrian Army fighters take cover from helicopter fire in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 21.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

  • A Free Syrian Army fighter climbs through a damaged wall during fighting in the Saif Dawla neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 24.

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    A Free Syrian Army fighter climbs through a damaged wall during fighting in the Saif Dawla neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 24.

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    Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

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When the Arab Spring broke out two years ago, photojournalist James Lawler Duggan grabbed his camera. As waves of protests pulsed through the Middle East, Duggan, on a leave of absence from the Corcoran School of Art, followed conflict through Bahrain, Libya, Egypt and finally into Syria.

This past August, he crossed the Turkish border and made his way to Aleppo to capture images of Free Syrian Army rebel fighters. Working for Agence-France Press, his photos were distributed all over the world.

As helicopters fired rockets and regime tanks rolled through abandoned neighborhoods, Duggan, 25, set out to document what he says gives meaning to his own life: the human extreme.

Photojournalist James Lawler Duggan.
Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

Photojournalist James Lawler Duggan.

His work represents a delicate balance between accessing risk, taking meaningful photos and dealing with the aftershock of seeing such extreme violence.

"Photographing something graphic spares you the trauma of it," he explains. "The focus on capturing the frame affords you a callus. But it catches up to you later."

Unarmed, Duggan put faith in the Free Syrian Army fighters who were guiding him — while also trying not to become too emotionally attached to them, a survival technique in its own rite.

"I never broke down crying in Syria," he says, looking down at a photograph of a man with crimson torture scars on his back. "But I have since I came home."

The photo, taken in a Free Syrian Army safe house, shows a man who had just been tortured by Assad regime forces. It is perhaps Duggan's most widely published photo.

A Syrian civilian shows marks of torture after his release from regime forces in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 23.
Courtesy of James Lawler Duggan

A Syrian civilian shows marks of torture after his release from regime forces in the Bustan Pasha neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 23.

Minutes before the photo was taken, Duggan explains, two civilian men walked into the room, one looking clearly roughed up. The other man at first seemed unharmed, but when he took off his shirt, Duggan clicked his camera. "At the moment, it wasn't clear the power the photo would have," he says.

In a way, the shot could symbolize how the war is everywhere in Syria — even if it seems hidden.

Photographers in war zones often have to be in the line of fire in order to capture it. While Duggan says he doesn't take unnecessary risks, he acknowledges the incredible dangers of "bang-bang photography," referring to a group of photographers who documented apartheid and violence in South Africa in the early '90s. Looking back, he says he can think of numerous occasions where he jumped headfirst into a potentially deadly situation.

"It's fashionable for conflict photographers to tell each other to be safe and not to take unnecessary risks, but at the end of the day, we're all trying to get closer and push the envelope. I spent two of my nine lives in Syria," he admits.

This month, he (along with this blogger) will be participating in RISC — Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues — a course that gives freelance journalists medical training for life-threatening situations. The program was set up by Sebastian Junger, a friend of photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed during the conflict in Libya.

"I'm honored to get this opportunity," Duggan says — adding that all freelancers should prepare for the realities of combat.

He says he constantly thinks about the impact of his career on friends and family. "I wear a flak jacket for my mother, not my editor or anyone else. My mother."

You can see more of James Lawler Duggan's work on his website.

Sophia Jones is an intern with NPR News.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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It was a typical day at one of the hospitals here in Aleppo, a typical three hours, to be even more specific. Children seemed to be everywhere, on hospital beds, in the hospital lobby and waiting with listless faces outside the clinic. Blood seemed to seep through every piece of clothing they had. Some, as young as three, composed themselves as needles pierced their skin to stitch up deep wounds.

Mohamed, 13, tried hard not to cry as he lay on a hospital bed, wincing in pain from the injury he’d sustained after a shell landed near the breadline where he had waited for hours. No one knew he’d been hurt yet and his cousin arrived only thirty minutes later to transfer him to another hospital.

More civilians flooded in, and those who were conscious had a resigned look of acceptance—this was just what happened now these days.

A teenage son, his face smeared in red, collapsed in tears over his father’s body laying on the gurney. He was hit in the head by a bullet, caught in the crossfire as their car made their way through the confusing myriad of streets, unaware of where the snipers or perhaps even the army was. He didn’t seem to register the reality and stared at his father’s bloodied body in disbelief. The doctors bound his father’s hands together and covered him in a blue sheet. They carried his body into the back seat of the car, his feet sticking oddly out of the right window. The boys in the back couldn’t hold it in any longer—as the car pulled away, they wailed.

A man’s body, uncollected by his relatives, lay on a bed in an alley behind the hospital. Another man came rushing in, his eyes wide with fear. In his arms was a bleeding young girl. The hospital staff were all busy attending other civilians and fighters. “What do I do?” he screamed. He was panting, panicking. Someone told him to go to another field hospital. Back in the surgery room, almost easy enough to miss, was an 8-year-old girl who had apparently died in an airstrike. Her body was being wrapped in a shroud and a doctor picked her up to bring her to a waiting taxi.

And minutes later, 15-year-old Fareed was rushed into the hospital. His eyes were wide open as he took deep, labored breaths—his last few before turning motionless. The doctors rushed him to surgery, attempting to resuscitate him. His mother appeared in the lobby, screaming, hyperventilating, crying and grasping at her face in disbelief.

Fareed couldn’t be saved. The little piece of shrapnel had entered his back and passed through his heart—there was nothing the doctors could do here. The hospital had so many needs—for staff, surgeons in particular, and crucial medical equipment like oxygen tanks. It is simultaneously a little house of horrors, and a little house of miracles, where death hangs heavy in the air but every saved life brings a renewed sense of purpose for the doctors.

“I feel a lot of pain inside. A lot of pain, when I see women and children injured. But I have to control myself because I have to help them,” says 28-year-old Abu Ismail, an anesthetist from Aleppo. Abu Ismail wears a black headband with white writing: There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is his prophet. “This headband gives me strength. I don’t save the lives—Allah does,” he says calmly as the horns of cars rushing to the hospital echo downstairs. Abu Ismail doesn’t flinch—his eyes remain excited and he is always smiling, even though he slept less than two hours the night before.

These are the everyday scenes in one hospital of one neighborhood in Aleppo. A microcosm of what the war looks like for the civilians of Syria, where every day the horror multiplies for even the youngest sufferers in this war. They are often the ones who cry the least as they are treated by doctors, while just a few beds over, grown men, fighters of the Free Syrian Army, scream out in pain. Daily shelling and attacks by helicopters and fighter jets seem to not break the civilian spirit. They remain resilient—they remain because they have no other place to go. Or simply, because they would rather die at home.

Nicole Tung is a freelance photographer who previously documented the uprisings in Libya and Egypt. Tung has previously filed dispatches from Syria recounting the aftermath of an airstrike in Aleppo and civilian funerals in Idlib

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