Katrina Fida’a October, 6, 2015 – Syria
In the early morning of Saturday, October 4, 2015, civilian artist and activist Niraz Saied was arrested from his hiding place in Damascus, Syria, by an internal Syrian Security branch – also known as “Sector 14”. Saied, a photographer in his early 20’s, documented the plight of daily civilian life inside besieged Yarmouk Camp, one of the great humanitarian catastrophes among the many in the Syrian crisis. Saied, a renowned photographer, returned to Syria in 2012 in the midst of the Syrian people’s uprising. He soon found himself besieged, along with 35,000 other Palestinian people, inside Yarmouk Camp at the beginning of 2013. While hundreds inside the camp began to starve, Saied used his camera to document the human suffering surrounding him and soon became known as the “Eye of Yarmouk”.
Saied won first prize in the 2014 UNRWA photography competition, with a picture named “The Three Kings”. The picture depicted three young boys with shaved heads, dirty from the lack of water or soap available to them, and starving inside the siege of Yarmouk Camp. UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, awarded Saied the prize of $1,000USD and published “The Three Kings” as the cover of their 2015 calendar. However, UNRWA notified Saied that he should pick up his prize at their office in Mezzeh – located outside besieged Yarmouk Camp – without offering him any protection to evacuate safely from the camp. Meanwhile, Saied was starving alongside his friends and the other 20,000 besieged Yarmouk residents still trapped inside the camp at that time. In an interview with UNRWA about his photography, he said, “In the camp there is not one complete family.
I was feeling in each picture, between the faces, as if there was a shadow of someone missing. Because of this, you can see the darkness in my photos.” As assistant director and the central figure in the movie “Letters from Yarmouk “, Saied shared the story of the besieged camp. Through photos, Saied imprinted images of the camp across the world. His photos have been exhibited in Europe, the United States, and in many Arab countries. The 24-year old Saied always remarked in his interviews, that his mission is to tell, in photos, the stories unfolding around him. “Life is small details happening every day; my role is to capture what’s inside people, besieged both from the outside and also inside their minds. We are besieged socially and politically, we are besieged from both inside and outside of Yarmouk Camp. And no one loves the truth. Weapons have power in Syria now. These weapons don’t have thoughts, the only law is weapons … this gives me more responsibility as a photographer. And this also means no one is ever satisfied with my photos.” Saied exposed the tragedy of Yarmouk Camp through photography until the first week of April 2015 when Yarmouk was invaded by ISIS. His life was threatened and he was forced to evacuate from Yarmouk Camp to neighboring Yelda with another 2,000 Palestinian families. Saied was one of the few civilian activists evacuated from Yelda, in July 2015, into Damascus city. He remained in Damascus in hiding, in the regime area, awaiting any chance to leave the country. But like all other Palestinian Syrians, leaving the country for Saied was next to impossible, as entering all neighboring countries is forbidden. Saied was not granted protection, visa or permission to travel by any foreign government, regardless of his numerous works being used by many foreign media outlets. As Saied published in his many interviews, “There is always hope, history will not end here. Palestinians in Yarmouk and across the world have faced disaster, but they remain fighting to live, because they are people who admire life and deserve it. Whatever the situation they are facing… they believe tomorrow will be better.” Saied is amongst more than 1,200 Palestinian Syrians who are now locked in Syrian prisons; more than 200 Palestinian Syrians have been killed under torture in these conditions.