.

All too often, I find myself in the middle of a war or conflict photographing events as they unfold before me. I am certainly not thinking of the bigger political picture or the human consequences of that particular war or conflict. My immediate thoughts in those moments are survival, the man to the left of me, and the man to the right—nothing else matters.

UNHCR has given me a unique opportunity to capture and document the direct results of some of the wars that I have photographed, most recently the plight of Sudanese refugees who have taken shelter in the newly formed country of South Sudan.

These terrified families have endured brutal aerial bombardments by Russian-built Antonov heavy bombers sent by the regime in the north. These not only destroy their villages, crops, and livelihoods, but they also kill tens of thousands in their wake. They have eaten dirt and leaves in their journey to the UNHCR camps in Mabaan County, lost loved ones on the way, and at times have lost hope of the future being anything but a world of pain and suffering.

But once these lost souls are in the UNHCR camps, I witnessed nothing but compassion from UNHCR staff on the ground, giving these frightened families some hope that there might just be a better and safe world for now.

I have photographed the sad spectacle of Syrian families at the exact moment they become refuges in a strange and foreign land—a journey of utmost danger, sometimes across the entire country to reach a friendly border. On this occasion Jordan, were they are met with consideration by the Jordanian military and handed over, once again, to caring and affectionate UNHCR staff.

I photographed in the sprawling UNHCR camp in Zaa’tari, Jordan—just twelve miles from the Syrian border. This camp held at its peak over 200,000 Syrian refugees. This is now not a camp but a city—a city that positively hums with life; a city that goes about its daily business, from weddings to beauty parlours offering ‘all in packages’, to dedicated doctors and midwives delivering new life. This is city that should not exist, created by a dreadful civil war seemingly without end.

The stories of torture and mass killing by the Syrian military are terrible and rife, commonplace amongst the refugees. This pain, many a refugee says, “will be the price of our freedom.”

During my stay at the camp I spoke to an elderly Syrian gentle man who told me, somewhat chillingly, “My home [Syria] is the nearest a man can get to hell while his heart is still beating.”

A refugee is no different from you and me.

We tend to forget that refugees are just that! As soon as they are branded with this sad title of ‘refugee’, they become second-class humans in our collective perception—through no fault of their own.

Refugees are a people to be at times tolerated and isolated, not loved or given the respect they deserve. Politicians blame refugees for political and economic instability in the host countries.

The one enduring quality that has shone through in all my images in both camps is dignity and pride and at times it is often very humbling.

They are you and me. They have lost everything—absolutely everything—in a heartbeat. So easily, it could be you or me looking into the photographer’s lens.

View Sebastian Rich's Gallery of Moments on refugees, Broken Lives.

Sebastian Rich has been a photographer/cameraman in hard news, documentary, and current affairs for over thirty years. During his career Sebastian has filmed and photographed every major war and conflict: El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, The Gulf, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq. He has been wounded several times, including kidnapped and held hostage while on assignment in Beirut. One of the characteristics of Sebastian’s work is the poignant images of young children that he portrays most vividly in his footage and photographs.

About
Sebastian Rich
:
Sebastian Rich is Senior Contributing Photographer at Diplomatic Courier. Sebastian has been a photographer/cameraman in hard news, documentary and current affairs for over thirty years.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

A Refugee is No Different from You and Me

|
June 15, 2014

All too often, I find myself in the middle of a war or conflict photographing events as they unfold before me. I am certainly not thinking of the bigger political picture or the human consequences of that particular war or conflict. My immediate thoughts in those moments are survival, the man to the left of me, and the man to the right—nothing else matters.

UNHCR has given me a unique opportunity to capture and document the direct results of some of the wars that I have photographed, most recently the plight of Sudanese refugees who have taken shelter in the newly formed country of South Sudan.

These terrified families have endured brutal aerial bombardments by Russian-built Antonov heavy bombers sent by the regime in the north. These not only destroy their villages, crops, and livelihoods, but they also kill tens of thousands in their wake. They have eaten dirt and leaves in their journey to the UNHCR camps in Mabaan County, lost loved ones on the way, and at times have lost hope of the future being anything but a world of pain and suffering.

But once these lost souls are in the UNHCR camps, I witnessed nothing but compassion from UNHCR staff on the ground, giving these frightened families some hope that there might just be a better and safe world for now.

I have photographed the sad spectacle of Syrian families at the exact moment they become refuges in a strange and foreign land—a journey of utmost danger, sometimes across the entire country to reach a friendly border. On this occasion Jordan, were they are met with consideration by the Jordanian military and handed over, once again, to caring and affectionate UNHCR staff.

I photographed in the sprawling UNHCR camp in Zaa’tari, Jordan—just twelve miles from the Syrian border. This camp held at its peak over 200,000 Syrian refugees. This is now not a camp but a city—a city that positively hums with life; a city that goes about its daily business, from weddings to beauty parlours offering ‘all in packages’, to dedicated doctors and midwives delivering new life. This is city that should not exist, created by a dreadful civil war seemingly without end.

The stories of torture and mass killing by the Syrian military are terrible and rife, commonplace amongst the refugees. This pain, many a refugee says, “will be the price of our freedom.”

During my stay at the camp I spoke to an elderly Syrian gentle man who told me, somewhat chillingly, “My home [Syria] is the nearest a man can get to hell while his heart is still beating.”

A refugee is no different from you and me.

We tend to forget that refugees are just that! As soon as they are branded with this sad title of ‘refugee’, they become second-class humans in our collective perception—through no fault of their own.

Refugees are a people to be at times tolerated and isolated, not loved or given the respect they deserve. Politicians blame refugees for political and economic instability in the host countries.

The one enduring quality that has shone through in all my images in both camps is dignity and pride and at times it is often very humbling.

They are you and me. They have lost everything—absolutely everything—in a heartbeat. So easily, it could be you or me looking into the photographer’s lens.

View Sebastian Rich's Gallery of Moments on refugees, Broken Lives.

Sebastian Rich has been a photographer/cameraman in hard news, documentary, and current affairs for over thirty years. During his career Sebastian has filmed and photographed every major war and conflict: El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, The Gulf, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq. He has been wounded several times, including kidnapped and held hostage while on assignment in Beirut. One of the characteristics of Sebastian’s work is the poignant images of young children that he portrays most vividly in his footage and photographs.

About
Sebastian Rich
:
Sebastian Rich is Senior Contributing Photographer at Diplomatic Courier. Sebastian has been a photographer/cameraman in hard news, documentary and current affairs for over thirty years.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.