A Japanese nurse has launched a series of photo exhibitions detailing the lives of ordinary people in Syria, hoping to expose a reality often hidden amid the daily footage of death and destruction emerging from the ongoing civil war.
“I want people to know more about their lives and not just the conflict there,” Yoshiko Tamura said.
About 40 photos — including some showing Syrian children playing under trees and others with smiling boys sharing bread before the outbreak of the war — were displayed at her latest exhibition in the city of Minamiboso, Chiba Prefecture, in mid-September.
Tamura, 34, who works at a Tokyo hospital, said the photos were taken by herself and by other “fans of Syria” who visited the country or offered humanitarian aid to its refugees.
She has organized seven exhibitions — including the latest one — in the Tokyo metropolitan area, as well as in Kobe, her hometown. The first, in Yokohama, opened in 2013.
Tamura first became enamored with the Middle East during a visit to the region in her college years.
“Their sensibilities are completely different from ours and I was intrigued by this,” she said, recalling a time when the driver of a desert tour bus in Egypt suddenly stopped his vehicle and began praying.
After graduating from college, Tamura decided that she wanted to be become involved in humanitarian work, enrolling in nursing school shortly thereafter. She also studied Arabic in Syria from 2009 to 2010.
Watching TV footage of widespread destruction that followed the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on its people after the 2011 Arab Spring-inspired pro-democracy protests, Tamura began to feel frustrated. She boarded a plane to neighboring Jordan alone, intending to offer her services at a refugee camp.
But Tamura, who had no permission to enter the camp, was turned away.
Undeterred, she traveled to Iraq in April as a member of a Japanese nonprofit organization, and has spent three months offering health care consultations to Syrian refugees
“I had the opportunity to work in Iraq and I’m holding a photo exhibition because I want to return the favors I received from Syrians,” she said.
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