Reference : V-P-LB-E-01487
Date : 04/2016
Country/Region : LEBANON
Caption : Beirut. The ICRC launches an interactive multimedia exhibition entitled “men: portraits of a journey”.
Photographer : SAADE, Joe
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : News release on ICRC website, 07.04.2016: “Beirut (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is launching an interactive multimedia exhibition today, entitled Men: Portraits of a Journey, at the Minus 1 venue in Beirut. The exhibition, which will run from 7 to 17 April, draws attention to seven Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian men whose lives have been massively disrupted by conflict and other violence in the region. "What is happening in the region today has reverberations throughout the world," said Fabrizzio Carboni, head of the ICRC delegation in Lebanon. "We hope that this exhibition will help people look beyond all that is most vividly in the news now – the stigma, the fear, the numbers – and see what men really have to endure as they struggle to keep going or to provide for their families." The exhibition consists of 14 portraits by the Lebanese photographer Joe Saade – two of each of the seven men. Together, they illuminate the social and psychological pressure to which men are subjected during conflict. While they view the portraits, visitors will hear, via audio recordings, narrative histories of the lives of the seven men. The interactive exhibition space, designed by Sabine Saba, is likely to make the experience particularly intense and involving. "We want to stress that these men, despite all that they have been through, are strong and survivors," said Soaade Messoudi, head of communications at the ICRC delegation in Lebanon, who conceived the idea of the exhibition. "They are trying to do everything they can to cope against unimaginable odds. That is why we have selected portraits of this kind, so that people can regard them as works of art, and absorb the stories they tell."
"I am Mohamad Safwan, 29 years old.
That particular day, I was on my way to the airport. My flight was at 5 PM, and we received the news around 3 PM from my nephew. He was with them, but he was the only one to survive together with my brother. He swam to the beach. He called my aunt and she informed me of their deaths at sea.
Everything happened quickly. I mean my father did not have this in mind at all when he decided to migrate. ‘Need’ was also not the main reason why they decided to leave. No. I mean, we are making ends meet. There is nothing beyond [our needs].
Our main worry is the access to health care and the unstable situation of the country. For example, I am not insured. If I need medical care and have to go to the hospital, I will lose everything. I will not even be admitted, because I simply can’t pay for it. I have no insurance and have to pay for the schooling of my children.
There was another reason why he took the decision to leave again: my sister. My eldest sister has three kids; 18, 16 and the youngest is 7 and has diabetes. He has a speech impediment and she had a hard time. The school here couldn’t do much to help. People said the situation would be different there.
My father made his plans in a week. He had spoken to some people. Usually, you pay the money there and you go with people. They bought a small boat to travel on their own and they thought the trip would be short. They made a mistake and lost their way, because they were travelling at night. It is only one hour away. But they travelled for 2.5 hours in the water at night. The sea became turbulent and the boat began to leak.
There was my father, my mother, my eldest sister, my brother, two younger sisters, three nephews, my sister-in-law and a young man and his son. There were 12 of them. When they fell in the water, they tried to save each other. How many can you take care of? Children confuse you more than anything else.
My brother had his pregnant wife with him. She was due in about 10 days. She died in his arms, she and my mother. They had life-jackets, but these don’t last. The water was too cold, frozen and they were in the water for two days. My brother swam for hours the next day with my nephew.
It was a huge shock. To lose a mother, father, wife, sister, and children before his own eyes. No human can bear it.
Well, life is like this. What can you do? Life has to go on. One has to accept everything, the good and the bad.
The sea has become my enemy. We have been living here for 39 years. We all swim. We live our lives on the sea. We lived near the sea and, as they say, we died in the sea.
My father had told me to go along. I was really considering it. He was trying to convince me saying: “My son, come with us, anything you do there will be good, anything you do in Europe will be better.” I changed my mind only two days before [the trip]. I told him I did not want to leave. He called me a coward, saying I was afraid of the water. I replied: “Being a coward is better than being dead.
Now, I wish I had gone with them. I could have helped.
We used to go to the Orontes River for lunch and prepare for those trips three or four days before. That’s how things were. My sister and her kids were with us. They are all gone now. And we remain in this world.
There is no joy to be found in being alone. You cannot be happy anymore. Life has no taste anymore. I was seeing my father every two days, if not every day. We used to speak and laugh together. My father was like my friend, not only a father.
Eh, the people you love... [crying] most are gone. The entire house is empty now. We were nine and are five now [crying] … I lost the dearest person to me; my father."
Original material : digital
Resolution : 5534x3689
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : black and white