Eid in Idlib

In Salqin, Idlib, within the range of the regime’s guns, men, women, and children celebrate Eid with the same irrepressible joy that people in less endangered places do

You all remember that feeling. The irrepressible excitement — new clothes, new shoes, new thrills. A cornucopia on every table. Plates of fragrant rice topped with succulent pieces of meat, surrounded by salads and salsa, downed with rose squash or lime soda. The rich desserts, some crisp, some creamy; the cool delights, ice creams, sorbets, sherbets, jallab. It’s a day of abundance. The day when everyone is possessed by generosity and all meanness evaporates. A day of love, kindness, and serenity. On this day, in the glow of all the warm feelings, you are unassailable. A day when everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

But what if you are a child growing up in Idlib; you have no place to call home because you have been made homeless once, twice, even six times over; and you are surrounded by a war that is older than you are? What if your life has never been free of want and the only geography familiar to you is the space between life and death? What if you’ve grown up fearing the sky? Knowing that your existence is inconvenient to many: some determined to eliminate you, others to make you invisible. Does your life become solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short?

Not if you go by the evidence of the Eid celebrations in Salqin, a town in Idlib near the Turkish border. The place is full of internally displaced people, many living in tents erected between olive groves, and it is within range of Syrian regime guns. And the war has been edging closer.

But as photojournalist Fared al Mahlool shows with these photos, taken over the eve and morning of Eid, Idlib is a safe haven mainly for these men, women, and children, who take the same joy in new clothes, good food, carnival-rides, and candy as we all do. Their smiles are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. But their happiness is also a reminder of the fragility of human achievement. Because even as the people of Salqin were stealing some normality from the cruelty of war, the regime’s killers were determined to increase their grim tally. In an artillery strike on Jabal Zawiya on the third day of Eid, they killed seven members of a family, including four children.

— Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, Senior Editor

All photos in this essay were taken by Fared Al Mahlool during July’s Eid holiday in Idlib, Syria.

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