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Witnesses to War is a testament to the resilience of Syrian children who have known little other than war.
Witnesses to War is a testament to the resilience of Syrian children who have known little other than war.
181 backers pledged $25,258 to help bring this project to life.

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$25,258

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January 7, 2014 - Men hold up a baby rescued from underneath rubble after an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad destroyed buildings in Douma, an eastern suburb of Damascus.
January 7, 2014 - Men hold up a baby rescued from underneath rubble after an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad destroyed buildings in Douma, an eastern suburb of Damascus.

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

Announcing Stretch Goals:

On behalf of the entire team we are humbled by your support for this project. After years of living under siege in Eastern Ghouta it is exciting to see this work welcomed by the global community. We have almost reached our first goal and so have decided to share a bit more of the work ahead in the hopes that you and others will continue to be a part of this journey.

Stretch Goal 1: Our first stretch goal is to reach the complete production cost of $25,200 with this Kickstarter. This will allow us to expedite book production and move more quickly into the important education and advocacy work supporting children of Syria to which we are all committed. We thank you deeply for this support.

Stretch Goal 2: If we reach our first stretch goal we will announce another challenge for our team!

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Witnesses to War: The Children of Syria, Stories and Photography by Bassam Khabieh is intended to provide a close-up view of the impact that the war in Syria has had on children. Rather than portray children as victims, I want to illustrate the incredible resilience of Syria’s children. Yes, there are bombings, displacement, and violence. But children and families are also holding on to fragments of normalcy through schools held in basements, games played in temporarily safe streets, and events celebrated under tenuous conditions.

Even as I write this, the situation in my city of Douma has gotten worse. During the first months of 2018, we experienced weeks of carpet bombing and a scorched earth campaign by the Syrian government. And then came the recent chemical attack in April. In May, thousands of families were displaced from Douma - including me and my family. Fortunately, I've relocated to Istanbul, Turkey for the time being, but we need your help to ensure this project is told and spread across the globe.

I don’t know what will happen politically, but regardless of the outcome of this gruesome war and who controls Syria, all of its children need our attention and support. The book feels even more urgent to me now.

All text will be in Arabic and English.

Your help will make sure that, beyond sales to the general public, hundreds of political leaders and civil society organizations around the world will receive these books at no cost, thus ensuring that the urgent short and long-term needs of Syrian children are accurately represented in local, regional, and global policymaking.

I'm working with the 501c3 Karam Foundation to host the funds in Chicago, Illinois, so that they are safe and secure and ready to be used for the publication.100% of the net proceeds of book sales will go to support humanitarian relief in Syria through the Karam Foundation.

September 16, 2017 - Students walk in a damaged classroom on the first day of school in the rebel-held Douma suburb of Damascus, Syria. These young children have grown up with no recollections prior to the start of the ongoing Syrian conflict.
September 16, 2017 - Students walk in a damaged classroom on the first day of school in the rebel-held Douma suburb of Damascus, Syria. These young children have grown up with no recollections prior to the start of the ongoing Syrian conflict.

OVERVIEW AND BACKGROUND

I did not start out as a photographer. Seven years ago, I was studying computer science when the war broke out in Syria. During the early months, many of us used our mobile phone cameras to document government attacks on peaceful protests. When it became too dangerous to be at my university because of government surveillance, I returned to my hometown in rebel-controlled Douma, in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. As the violence escalated there and around the country, it was clear that there was an urgent need for Syrian photographers to ensure that the world knew what was happening in our increasingly isolated and dangerous homeland. Throughout the conflict, and until just recently, I remained in the region, working as a photojournalist for many international media outlets.

While my images cover all aspects of daily life in war for those who are trapped by violence, I began to understand that there is a clear obligation to focus on the children of Syria and the uniquely high price they have paid during this brutal conflict. While most war photography is centered on armed combatants, it doesn’t necessarily show the true impact of violence. By assembling this unique body of evidence on what war means to the youngest members of my community, we can also see what we must address in the future in order to support our children as they become adults.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

I am an internationally recognized Syrian war photographer and, since 2013, have been a freelancer for Reuters. My images have been published in The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time Magazine. I have also consulted for UNICEF and the World Health Organization. This past year I was named an Oak Fellow at Colby College. I am the past recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for Photographic Reporting from Abroad Requiring Exceptional Courage and Enterprise. I also received the 3rd Place POYi award for Spot News in 2015.

More of my work can be found here and here

I feel that I can stop time via my eyes and my camera to make the world stop moving - and give me time to see what happened here. I want you, the viewer, to see the war through the eyes of children. I cannot keep Syrian children safe, but maybe I can make a difference to ensure that no one ever forgets.

Bassam Khabieh - Syria
Bassam Khabieh - Syria

GOALS AND IMPACT

This project is meant to:

  • Present an insider’s personal account and create a permanent record for current and future audiences. 
  • Encourage both immediate humanitarian assistance in Syria and longer-term support for children who will need tools to support their integration into a future peaceful society when that time occurs.

My team and I anticipate that the book will be used as follows:

  • By humanitarian and advocacy partners globally to assist in asking for aid for Syrian children and their families, both within and outside of Syria.
  • To demonstrate the need for refugee welcome while displacement continues to be an issue.
  • As evidence for current and future judicial bodies to understand what has happened in Syria. 
  • As research for development groups to understand what support impacted children will need in a post-conflict era.

ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED

I have taken all the photographs and have my editorial, production, and publishing team in place.

STILL TO COME

The photos and captions need editing. Once the pictures are selected, I will be interviewed by Alia Malek who will help tell the stories behind the images. The introduction needs to be written and the book designed.

Girls attend a class celebration for successfully completing the school year in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma. Schools in the region have limited supplies with which to teach as the rebel held area has been under siege for years.
Girls attend a class celebration for successfully completing the school year in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma. Schools in the region have limited supplies with which to teach as the rebel held area has been under siege for years.

 BOOK DESCRIPTION

PAGES : 172 

PHOTOS : 90 

SIZE : 207 mm x 273 mm (Vertical) 

Introduction by Leslie Thomas and Amy Yenkin 

Essay, Vignettes, Interview with Bassam Khabieh by Alia Malek 

Afterward with information from the Karam Foundation.

Design: de.MO design

Branding : Giorgio Baravalle

BUDGET

Printing                                            $15,000 

Design/Production                           $8,000 

Copy Editing (English/Arabic)           $500 

Writer’s Honoraria                             $1000 

English/Arabic Translation                $750 

Total: $25,200

TIMELINE

Spring and Summer 2018:

  • Complete fundraising 
  • Finalize images and captions 
  • Complete book design concept 
  • Complete interviews 
  • Complete introduction 
  • Solidify distribution and advocacy partner
  • Finalize book design

Fall 2018:  

  • Proof and print book

Winter 2018/2019:

  • Release book
October 16, 2013 Children ride on a merry-go-round made from remnants of Russian bombs on the second day of the Eid holiday.The artist Abou Ali al-Bitar has been using remnants of weapons to create toys to entertain children in Douma.
October 16, 2013 Children ride on a merry-go-round made from remnants of Russian bombs on the second day of the Eid holiday.The artist Abou Ali al-Bitar has been using remnants of weapons to create toys to entertain children in Douma.

TEAM 

My team includes:

Giorgio Baravalle, the Principal and Creative Director at de.MO design

Leslie Thomas, an architect and designer, director of the forthcoming documentary The Prosecutors, and founder of ART WORKS Projects

Amy Yenkin, an independent producer and editor and the former Director of the Documentary Photography Project at the Open Society Foundations

Karam Foundation is a non-profit organization on a mission to build a better future for Syria. Karam means generosity in Arabic - we seek to restore the dignity and quality of life for people by eliminating barriers to success through innovative education, entrepreneurial development, and community-driven aid. Karam is at the forefront of using innovation and technology to serve thousands of people who are suffering through one of the worst humanitarian crises of our lifetime.

Alia Malek, a journalist and former civil rights lawyer, is the author of the 2017 narrative nonfiction book The Home That Was My Country: A Memoir of Syria. She also edited and co-conceived, with the Magnum Foundation, EUROPA: An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees published in 2016.

October 4, 2014 - Children, accompanied by their father, walk together ahead of performing prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha in the Douma neighbourhood in Damascus.
October 4, 2014 - Children, accompanied by their father, walk together ahead of performing prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha in the Douma neighbourhood in Damascus.

 REWARDS

When you donate to our campaign, you will be able to choose from a variety of rewards including postcards and prints of the images you see below. Because my situation is uncertain, I will attempt to have the books and prints signed but cannot guarantee. If I am unable to sign books and prints, you will receive a book plate or signature sticker at a later date. 

Check out our "rewards" section for further details! Reward prints will be generously provided by Printlab, the professional photo lab of choice in Chicago for over 25 years. http://www.printlab.com/

 Below are images that will be used for the rewards:

December 30, 2016 - Children carry balloons before releasing them toward Damascus on the first day of a ceasefire that ultimately did not hold.
December 30, 2016 - Children carry balloons before releasing them toward Damascus on the first day of a ceasefire that ultimately did not hold.
January 19, 2017 - A young girl blows bubbles in the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
January 19, 2017 - A young girl blows bubbles in the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
October 14, 2014 - A boy sits on a wheel in front of the bullet-riddled facade of a mosque on the first day of the Eid holiday in the Douma.
October 14, 2014 - A boy sits on a wheel in front of the bullet-riddled facade of a mosque on the first day of the Eid holiday in the Douma.
March 10, 2014 - Children sit near debris along a street in the Douma suburb of Damascus, Syria. The area, a rebel stronghold, has been badly damaged throughout the war.
March 10, 2014 - Children sit near debris along a street in the Douma suburb of Damascus, Syria. The area, a rebel stronghold, has been badly damaged throughout the war.
June 20, 2017 -  Girls break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan amidst damaged buildings. The traditional Iftar dinner was held by the Adaleh Foundation in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma, a suburb of Damascus, Syria.
June 20, 2017 - Girls break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan amidst damaged buildings. The traditional Iftar dinner was held by the Adaleh Foundation in the rebel-held besieged town of Douma, a suburb of Damascus, Syria.

Risks and challenges

I see no risks or challenges at this point other than raising the money since the photographs have all been taken and the book is being produced by a team. Our team is confident we will raise the funds necessary to make this project a reality but nonetheless, this does remain a risk.

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Funding period

- (30 days)