Having lasted for more than a decade, the Syrian war has torn the country’s society apart, but individual and group initiatives never ceased to try to overcome the social impact of the bloody conflict that erupted after Syrian people took to streets in protest on March 11, 2011.
The most recent initiative announced last week was launched by a young photographer from the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in the north-eastern Syria, close to the Turkish borders. The city is home to a mixture of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, and Armenians.
Rudy Tahlo, the Syrian Kurdish photographer, launched the first-of-its-kind project under the title “Faces of Rojava”. Rojava is the Kurdish name of the region in which Syrian Kurds live, and which is currently controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces. But Ankara seized three primary cities in the region: Afrin, Tell Abiad, and Serê Kaniyê, in two separate attacks by the Turkish army in January 2018 and October 2019.
Tahlo told Majalla that “‘Faces of Rojava’ is an artistic project against ethnic and religious discrimination. It presents a collection of photos which I took for residents of my neighborhood, where Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, and Armenians live together.”
The 31-years-old artist added, “My photos are not tagged with the people’s names. They are just unnamed people who came from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. However, they mostly belong to three faiths: Islam, Christianity and Yazidism.”
He also said, “The main aim of my initiative is to promote the culture of coexistence, and maintain domestic peace in a region plagued by conflicts for years.”
Tahlo admitted that the project’s idea came to his mind in 2016, but personal issues delayed the implementation.
Just a couple of weeks ago, he started by taking photographs of people from various cultures. The artist usually reveals their identity indirectly, as he apparently focuses on their clothes. Then, he posts the photos on his social media pages.
“Some media outlets published false news during the war years. They said that Kurds forced displacement of Arabs and others from their homes, which is not true. Through the photos that I take every day, I concentrate on the commonalities among the people and fight any discrimination,” explained Tahlo.
The artist found his subjects when walking around public markets, and visiting some mosques and churches, “I aspire to spread love and tolerance among people, that is why I take photos of faces exhausted by war.” he said, “Rojava is rich with diversity, and we should preserve this intertwining of ethnic and religious identities.”
A student of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Homs University in Syria when the war broke out, Tahlo is now a dedicated photographer working for a number of media outlets.
“Before war, I thought of travelling abroad to study genetic engineering. But after all that happened, my life has largely changed. Now I am keen on staying in Rojava, Thousands sacrificed their lives for its sake, so I’m not leaving it.”