Photographer holds festival of hope amid Aleppo fighting

Two images taken in the same week in the center of Aleppo. On the left is a burning building in the old city on September 22; on the right is the opening of Aleppo Photo Festival at Le Pont Gallery on September 15.

Story highlights

  • Civil war reached center of Syria's second city one month before photo festival due to start
  • Organizer Issa Touma's own home was destroyed in gun fighting
  • 11th annual photo festival continued on smaller scale despite fighting
These pictures were taken within one week of each other in the center of Aleppo and show the incredible resilience of some of its residents in the face of Syria's bloody civil war.
Photographer Issa Touma's home in the historic area of Aleppo has been badly damaged by gunfire. Yet, amid the crossfire between opposition and government forces, Touma is still organizing the international photography festival he holds every year.
Touma, who owns a gallery in Aleppo, has been running the exhibition for 11 years and was determined that the show would continue despite fighting reaching the center of the city on August 19. The festival was due to open on September 15.
"Before that time we were continuing preparations for the festival in the normal way because we didn't think the middle of the city would be affected by the war," said Touma.
"But life changed quickly. Shooting started to come from every direction," he added.
Syria's largest city, in the north of the country, has become a key battleground between the rebel Free Syrian Army, which controls parts of the city, and forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad aiming to drive them out.
Until August, the fighting was confined to the countryside surrounding the city, but has since moved closer and closer to the center.
On August 27, Touma's home in a historic area of the city was badly damaged by gunfire and he says he was trapped inside for nine days while fighting raged outside.
"The Free Syrian Army's lines were in front of my house," he said. "Those nine days were so terrible."