CNN Photos

Syria's war refugees: 'A feeling of loss'

Moises Saman's camera shows the littlest victims of Syria's civil war: the children.

Saman has been capturing dramatic images among the 2 million refugees that the United Nations says have fled Syria since shortly after the conflict began in 2011. More than half are 16 and younger, the United Nations says.

Impact Your World: How to help

The pictures depict desperation - a crying toddler clutching his pet chicken. Or helplessness - a mother dressed in black holding her sick child. Or even glimpses of hope - a Kurdish boy marching atop ruined barracks once used by the army of Saddam Hussein.

Many of Syria's war refugees survive day-by-day in sprawling tent cities dotting Syria's borders with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
The United Nations refugee count in these countries is staggering: Lebanon, 716,000; Jordan, 515,000; Turkey, 460,000; and Iraq,168,000.
Saman has photographed refugees in all of these places - most recently Iraq - where he documented the lives of ethnic Kurds fleeing Syria.

After years of quick assignments, Saman has committed to digging deep into the subject of Syria's refugees in hopes of creating an extensive body of work that reflects the historical importance of the Arab Spring and the Syrian conflict. He aims to connect with the viewer by highlighting examples of humanity under very tough conditions. He wishes to celebrate the people's resiliency and to reveal hope during dire situations.

Shooting in black and white provided Saman with more latitude amid Iraq's harsh lighting conditions. Not all situations offer the opportunity for a photographer to wait for the best possible light. The black and white format is "more forgiving in terms of not having to worry about lighting and composition, which when working in color you do have to pay more attention to," Saman says.

What comes through the lens - particularly in the Kurdish camps across Syria's border with Iraq - is a "feeling of loss," Saman says. There are entire communities made up of people who've lost almost everything, except themselves.

"The Kurdish Syrian people are seen as second -class citizens. These people have been on the move for decades. It's heartbreaking to see the latest influx of these refugees. It's mostly older people and women and children arriving with the clothes they're wearing and not much else."

Most younger men, says Saman, remain behind in Syria to fight.
Saman aims to put faces on the headlines.

"A lot of times, we get distracted by the politics or the war aspect of these conflicts. We forget that bombing and civil war has a direct effect on human beings."
Most of all, he wants his images to remind us about the people who are suffering right now.

"If anybody is trying to find a solution," Saman says, "if the politicians are trying to figure out what to do next - they should keep these people in mind."

- Thom Patterson, CNN