Photo above by Alice Martin
Story by Sean Bendon
Brazilian photojournalist Alice Martins has spent the last five years covering war in Syria and Iraq. Her photos are published weekly in The Washington Post bringing attention to the humanitarian crisis by focusing her lens on the civilians most affected by fighting.
“In general people are incredibly kind,” Martins said. “They share whatever food they have. They are going through some of the toughest moments in their lives, and still they find the time and generosity to tell a stranger their story.”
Spending time in Aleppo and Raqqa, Martins photographed refugees and a captured ISIS fighter. She says one of toughest assignments was taking pictures of a funeral for a Syrian family who lost six of their eight children in a bombing.
“It was one of the saddest days,” Martins said.
Since 2014, Martins works from an office in Erbil, a Kurdish-controlled region in Northern Iraq. She embeds with Iraqi Security Forces to get into Baghdad further to the south.
“It’s almost like it’s two countries,” Martins said. “The autonomous area to the north has its own laws and visa requirements.”
Martins traveled to Mosul last fall to cover the Iraqi Security Forces push to take back the city from ISIS. The city had been under the Islamic State’s control since June of 2014, and the Iraqi forces were making headway.
“In October, I was an hour’s drive from the front line,” Martins said. “It’s always a little bit scary but fear isn’t a bad thing.”
In August, ISIS had set fire to a sulphur plant in Mosul, leaving Martins and her embed in the middle of a dangerous chemical cloud. This was a tactic ISIS had used before to deter the forces from advancing and forced Martins to move away.
“We saw this white kind of yellowish smoke going up. There were at least 200 soldiers around me and suddenly all 200 of them were coughing,” said Martins. “I thought something was wrong and I started feeling that my throat was burning.”
Martins is still in Iraq where she is documenting the aftermath of life and death under the Islamic State. Her website includes pictures of the suffering. She says the best way to show death is through the eyes of the person experiencing loss.
“I want to show death through the people who are living,” she said.