Over the last year i have been covering the local Syrian-American community as they rallied for peace and against the United States’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War. The hub of the Syrian-American community in the US, some 20,000 strong is here in Allentown, PA. Through the countless rallies, protests and meetings i attended i shot thousands of photos and rolled hours of HD video footage.
This movie, “Little Green Stars” is a personal project of mine, a short documentary based off of the first few weeks of the local citizens protesting against the possible military actions in Syria. The movie is 33 minutes long and spans a timeline from the middle of August 2013 to the end of September 2013.
This is my account of how the ordinary did the extraordinary.
When I walk out to cover a photo assignment I never know what’s going to happen. Much like my former job of an EMT, my ambulance rolled out the door and I arrived at the call, anything was a possibility.. anything! Same deal for Photojournalism, it is like fishing.. you throw your line into the water, you might catch a big fish or come up with your worm gone.
When I click the shutter of the camera I am capturing a moment in time, I am recording history as it is happening. Bearing witness to history in the making, being on the front and seeing this stuff, whatever it is.. is a powerful charge of energy. As someone who has studied history, If we don’t document what has happened in the past and learn from it, we are doomed to repeat our actions over again.
Since last August I have been covering the rallies of the Syrian-American community in Allentown, PA against the US’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Lehigh Valley of PA, the 15th Congressional District has more Syrians than any other place in the US.
I have attended countless rallies with this group of people who show so much passion for their culture and their homeland, I even traveled to Washington DC with them as they protested at the Whitehouse and the Capital Building the possible actions of the US Military in Syria.
Out of all of this I have captured thousands of photos and hours of video, most are archived and about 20% have been published by various news organizations around the world.
A few days ago, I dug into the archives to find photos of a man who was killed on July the 9th in Syria. Nazih “Nick” Zarif Mouhrez died July 9 after being struck by a sniper’s bullet while he was traveling in a car to Damascus. Zarif was shot in the head by a sniper and after the bullet passed through killing him, it struck his 21 year old niece in the back seat; she is expected to survive but is in a coma. Nick was in Syria supporting President Bashar Al-Assad and the election process.
Nick was a fixture in the Allentown Syrian community. He was at so many of the rallies I covered. In this photo you see Nick on the right holding a sign.
No matter what story I am covering, I always remain impartial to the event. I have no other choice but to become an observer and document. To do my job effectively you can feel and understand but not partake or express opinions. I must admit, it was very strange having to look through my photos, nearly a years worth to find photos of a dead man who touched so many lives in the Syrian community here in the US and in his home country. As sad as it is, I am glad that I was able to have these photos and use them to help tell this story of the ultimate sacrifice. Nick died doing what he believed in, a true humanitarian to the end.
As I sat with Express-Times reporter Precious Petty this week while she interviewed a few members of the local Syrian-American community about Nick, I rolled video that has yet to be published. Some of the men talked and we listened, it was a mini history of the Arab Spring uprising that brewed into the Syrian Civil War. It gave me time to reflect back on what we do as journalists. After a cup of coffee, a few Syrian cookies and puff on the hookah filled with delicious lemon mint tobacco it was clear, We are historians, story tellers, visual interpreters and wordsmiths. We try to help the non-impacted see the story from the eyes of those who have lived through it. I hope for Nick and his family that we did just that. ~ CHRIS