Ozge Elif Kizil - Suruc / Turkey

In Turkey, war has become our neighbor. We follow it on televisions, through the radio, or in newsprint, but when the screens fall asleep, or the papers become a rag through which we wipe the grime from our screens, war is also wiped from our conscience.


I’d felt the presence of war, but I’d never been touched by its reality until I took a plane to the Turkish province of Sanliurfa on September 30, 2014. From there, looking across the border into Syria, I felt every bullet fired, every life lost, every piece of land abandoned and every tear. This came not just through my eyes; not through those I used to observe a TV screen, but from those that now looked back at me on a daily basis.


Across our border, civilians have once again become the victims of Syria’s three-year long Civil War. No longer is it regime versus resistance - the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant has swung the barrels back to face the innocents, and their only escape is to leave the lands they call home. Syrians fleeing clashes between ISIL and Kurdish armed groups in the Syrian border town of Kobani have flooded into Turkey with their belongings on their backs, their dreams left behind.

Not one photograph, video, or news article can fully capture the pain behind the tears of a mother who has lost a child to war and had to flee her hometown so her other children have a chance at life. Nevertheless, I tried – as did other journalists - to illustrate that war existed across the border in its entirety, but the refugees are still to come to the world’s attention.

I am new to this game. I’ve only been a photojournalist for a year, but through such experiences it already feels like a lifetime. It is in the exposure and the suffering that I have aged. It’s an experience I share with the hundreds of children I encountered in the Sanliurfa area of Suruc who left their childhood behind in their destroyed Syrian homes - pushed to become adults in their suffering.

It wasn’t much time… just 10 days (as many fingers as I have on both hands), but during that time I saw hundreds - maybe thousands - of eyes. We shared no common tongue, but there was no need - from every single glance I learnt so many things. Some of those eyes were crying secretly in a corner, others were still screaming at the border. Some showed a determination to stand firm in spite of their suffering, while others looked with apprehension to the future. Many silently cursed those they held responsible, while others looked back at what they had left behind. 

All eyes, however, shared one dream: a return to their homes. For that reason, they were open to every pair of eyes that would listen and share that dream. And maybe that’s why those eyes accepted me.

It’s hard to be a woman in a war zone, as it is in any moment of life. But I believe that a woman can touch the hearts of people easily. That’s why the eyes that I saw welcomed me. In each glance, they shared everything they’d seen.

Back home, I can return to newsprint and television – but through those eyes I am now on the other side of the screen.