When the Syrian uprising began in 2011, few would have guessed that it would become one of the bloodiest conflicts of our time. Ten years on, our reporters returned to the northeastern city of Idlib. It’s the only Syrian city not yet under government control, but where thousands of families are anxiously awaiting to learn the fate of loved ones who have disappeared. By crosschecking photographs with witness statements, an aid group tries to help them identify their missing family members.
After more than a decade of conflict, the death toll in Syria is now nearing 400,000, and tens of thousands of people are missing. While some six million Syrians have sought refuge abroad, another six million have been displaced internally. President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, remains the only Arab Spring dictator still standing. And his army is still applying ruthless tactics on anyone opposing him, using arbitrary detentions, torture and summary executions to silence them.
In Idlib, one of the Syrian opposition’s last outposts, whole families are desperately searching for answers to what has happened to missing family members – many of whom have been thrown into regime-held prisons, where many die of either hunger, disease or torture.
An aid group is helping these Idlib families identify their relatives by using the more than 55,000 photographs provided by Syrian deserter “César”, who took the images while working in a military hospital in Damascus.
Report by Édith Bouvier, James de Caupenne, Céline Martelet and Hussam Hamoud.