Syrian Refugees by James Nachtwey

Zaatari Camp, in Jordan, run by UNHCR for refugees from war in Syria.
James Nachtwey for TIME
December 2013. Za'atari refugee camp, Jordan. A Syrian refugee watches a prefabricated unit being delivered to replace makeshift tents.

The state of being a refugee is temporary, in theory, but without a place to go back to — a nation, a city, a home — limbo begins to look permanent, a designated space carved out of someone else’s country, where the basic needs of physical survival might be provided, but the rights of citizenship are forfeit, and human aspirations lose both their means and their direction.

Refugees are not only sequestered in space, they are incarcerated in time, walled-in between a past that’s been obliterated and a future that no longer exists. But things can get worse. Intense suffering from disease and starvation can render strictures of time and space merely negligible, and what might have been purgatory becomes a living hell. With the refugees from Syria, thankfully, that is not the case.

The international community has responded. Neighboring countries, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, have extended hospitality and NGO’s have organized food, shelter, water and medical assistance. And people have each other. Whole communities have been uprooted and have managed to stay together. But will they ever be able to safely return to Syria? If they cannot return, then how will the rest of the world accommodate not only their basic survival, but meet the challenge of establishing new citizenship, and the opportunities for self-determination inherent in that responsibility, rather than accepting the creation of another stateless people?


James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.


Related Topics: , , , ,

Latest Posts

Paul Strand Archive—Aperture Foundation

Paul Strand, Master of Modernism, in Retrospect

The first major retrospective of Paul Strand's work in nearly 50 years presents him as not only a critical figure in the history of modern art, but seeks to re-affirm his place as one of the founders of photography as we know it today.

Read More
Steven Nelson, 51, sits where a window was broken at Red's Original BBQ where he works in Ferguson, Missouri on October 8, 2014.

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 30, 2014

David Armstrong - Fashion

Remembering Photographer David Armstrong (1954—2014)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,880 other followers