Moving photo of father and son wounded in Syrian war wins international award

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A photo that mixes the drama of a war with the smiles of a father and son who managed to survive and start over was the winner of this year’s Siena International Photography Contest (SIPA).

Entitled “Hardship of Life”, Turkish photographer Mehmet Aslan’s image shows refugee Munzir al-Nazzal, who had his right leg amputated when he was hit by a bomb while walking in a market in the town of Idlib, in northern Syria.

He holds in his arms Mustafa, 5, who was born without his upper and lower limbs due to a congenital problem caused by the medications his mother, Zeynep, had to take after being hit by a toxic gas in the midst of the conflict.

Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship is accused by the UN and several other entities of having launched chemical weapons attacks dozens of times during the country’s civil war.

Mustafa’s family now lives in a Turkish town on the Syrian border. It was there that Aslan took the photo, the winner of the competition that had dozens of entries from photographers from 63 countries.

The boy will need electronic prostheses in the future — and they are not available in Turkey, according to the photo caption on the awards website.

In an interview with the American newspaper The Washington Post, Mustafa’s mother said that she and her husband are seeking help with their son’s treatment and that “they would give everything” to provide him with a better life.

Photographer Sergio Pitamiz, one of the 20 judges of the competition, said in an interview with an Australian website that the image is, “in its drama, also a moment of joy and happiness for a father and son who survived the horror and events that we can’t even remotely imagine”.

“Despite this, and even though they are still in a very difficult situation, they have the strength to smile. In one click there is all the tragedy of the conflict, but also the happiness of having survived it,” he said.

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