At the end of October, a photo entitled “Hardship of Life” by Turkish photographer Mehmet Aslan won the Siena Photo of the Year Award. Beyond the horror of war and disability, the photographer was able to capture all the humanity between a father and a son.
It was a moment of ultimate grace, a surging joy, a divine image, almost biblical. This is what emerges from the photo of Mehmet Aslan: a giant, Munzir, the father, and an angel, little Mustafa, 5 years old. In the photographer’s angle, behind the main subject, we see the immensity of the sky that is made of possibilities, dreams and hope.
We see the exchange of glances between the father and his child: a pure look, without limits, a look of love, between an already mature man and a little boy who discovers life. The look encapsulated an affectionate and mischievous dialogue between two souls linked forever, for better or for worse.
We linger on the outline of these two unusual characters. Little Mustafa is so small that he looks like a young sparrow just out of its nest and taking its first flight towards the unknown. His father is a muscular and bearded giant, a Goliath capable of lifting mountains. Physically, everything opposes them: the smallness and lightness of one, the imposing power of the other.
Where does this perfect fusion between father and son come from? Is it in the exchange of glances, in the shared smile? Certainly. But not only that. What brings father and son together is also a fate they did not choose. That of coming from a country at war tearing apart an entire people, entire families, even their own flesh and blood. The man and the child are both victims of the Syrian tragedy. The boy was born without arms and legs, due to tetra-amelia syndrome, a congenital disorder that could be caused, according to the family, by the treatment followed by Zeynep, his mother, after being poisoned by a nerve gas used during the war in Syria against the civilian population. The father lost his right leg in a bomb explosion in a marketplace in Idlib, the last pocket of resistance in the north of the country.
Munzir and his family are refugees in Reyhanli, Turkey, a city bordering Syria. The family now lives in a country at peace, but will forever bear the scars of violence and war. Behind this harsh image lies the resilience of women, men and children who are captive to the horrors of war, but who continue to look to the sky in the hope of a better life.