I was in Syria during the onslaught of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Although Western news agencies were effectively barred by Israel from reporting within the borders, the Arab media were able to receive direct updates through its correspondents living amidst the bombings and shootings. We would watch on the Arabic news channels scenes of distraught families carrying the bloodied bodies of their children and relatives to hospitals that are barely able to cope, followed by angry and impassioned commentaries by the journalists. I don’t speak Arabic but solely from their tone I can imagine the despair and frustration they feel.
The shot above was taken at a demonstration in the centre of Damascus. It was one of the earliest demonstrations held, but by no means the largest. The casual observer would find it difficult, initially, to tell if the demonstrators were expressing rage against the attacking Israelis or shouting impassioned support for the Syrian government. Flags and banners emblazoned with the portrait of the Syrian president Bashar al-Asad were on the hands of many of the participants. Many foreign observers have lamented on how Arab governments use Israel as a distraction, a convenient target for its tightly controlled citizens to let off some steam.
I took this photo without much thought, for I originally wanted to take a picture of the line of Syrian policemen guarding the demonstration, but decided against it for fear of upsetting the stern officers. It is only much later that I realise the striking contrast between the half-covered face of the child and that of the middle-aged woman. Despite having most of his face concealed, the bright spark in the eyes of the child conveys an expression of genuine curiosity. The woman on the other hand, had a resigned, tired look on her face which suggests that most people have suffered enough of the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.