March 15th, 2012

Reuters Photographer Recounts Harrowing Trip Into Syria

Reuters has posted photographer Zohra Bensemra’s nail-biting account of her recent five-day trip into Syria. With the help of Syrian activists, she slipped across the Turkish border to document the unrest near Idlib, which has come under attack by government forces in recent days.

“In Libya, miles divided the warring parties. In Syria, enemies are yards apart. The war is being fought from house to house,” Bensemra writes. Recounting civilian deaths in the aftermath of indiscriminate bombing by the military, she says, “From the moment we had crossed the border from Turkey, the terror was palpable in the faces of our guides, of all the villagers.”

Bensemra describes the terror of coming under attack when her guide panicked, and of being hunted by soldiers going house to house after they realized journalists were in the area. Her first-person account is accompanied by photographs of the destruction and death.

“Conditions for our work had been so tough in Syria, that it had been hard to capture many of the striking, bold images that make for the most arresting photography,” she wrote after returning safely to Turkey.

Bensemra’s account coincided with a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists about the dangerous conditions in Syria. Eight journalists have died there since November. CPJ says there is “substantial evidence” that government forces deliberately targeted two local journalists who were killed. And CPJ says that “circumstantial evidence and witness statements point to the possibility that government forces may have taken deliberate, hostile action against the press that led to the deaths of three international journalists, Gilles Jacquier, Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik.”

Meanwhile, two Turkish journalists who were missing in Syria for nearly a week have been captured and handed over to the Syrian secret police, according to news accounts today.

Related:
Photographer Remi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria
Remembering 13 Unsung Heroes of Photojournalism
Photographer William Daniels, Edith Bouvier Safe in Lebanon