Giving a voice to Syrian civilians
In January 2017, the French photographer Philippe de Poulpiquet spent two weeks with Handicap International’s teams in Jordan and Lebanon. Every day they went out to visit Syrian refugees, including numerous victims of explosive weapons.
This exhibition, supported by ECHO (the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) gives a voice to these civilians, whose lives were turned upside down in the space of a second. Their stories reflect a terrible reality shared by hundreds of thousands of Syrians since the beginning of the war in 2011.
Explosive weapons in populated areas
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is an appalling practice, frequently used in current conflicts and particularly prevalent in Syria. Civilians make up 90% of the victims of these attacks.
When used in populated areas, explosive weapons kill and cause serious injury and suffering (burns, open wounds, fractures etc.). They cause disability and psychological trauma. In Syria, this use of explosive weapons has led to mass population displacement and destroyed vital infrastructure including houses, schools and hospitals.
During bombing raids, a certain percentage of munitions will not explode on impact. These unexploded munitions therefore continue to pose a threat to the civilian population long after the fighting has ended. The presence of explosive remnants of war makes it dangerous for people to return to their homes.
The photographer’s approach
Philippe de Poulpiquet used a view camera to produce the portraits for this exhibition. This process, invented in the 19th century, uses period equipment that has undergone a number of refinements and requires extremely careful handling. By using this sophisticated form of photography, which requires time and patience, Philippe de Poulpiquet aimed to restore the dignity of the people whose image he was capturing for posterity.
Handicap International working with the victims of the Syrian conflict
Since 2012, Handicap International has been working alongside the victims of the Syrian conflict, in particular victims of explosive weapons. Supported by ECHO, the organisation currently has 500 professionals working in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to assist the most vulnerable, including people with injuries, people with disabilities, and people who are elderly or isolated. Its teams also intervene to help displaced people and refugees living in camps or hosted in local communities. Handicap International provides rehabilitation and orthopaedic fitting services, offers psychological support, ensures the most vulnerable have access to humanitarian aid, raises awareness of explosive remnants of war, conducts mine clearance work and distributes emergency kits.