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Photos show double blow of war and earthquakes in regime-held Syria

The city center of Jableh is home to older buildings as well as newer, less regulated construction. An image of President Bashar Assad hangs over a street cart with the slogan "We continue with you" in Arabic.
Aya Batrawy/NPR
The city center of Jableh is home to older buildings as well as newer, less regulated construction. An image of President Bashar Assad hangs over a street cart with the slogan "We continue with you" in Arabic.

JABLEH, Syria — Last month's earthquakes were catastrophic for parts of Turkey and Syria, but this is only the latest crisis to upend life here. The country's long-running civil war has left no part of the country untouched, no family unscathed.

Jassem al-Hussein and his wife Dahiya, in their 60s, stand in front of the home they share with their divorced daughter and their 8-year-old grandson. Al-Hussein has had multiple surgeries, is unemployed and says his two sons left Syria during the war and live as refugees in Lebanon.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
Jassem al-Hussein and his wife Dahiya, in their 60s, stand in front of the home they share with their divorced daughter and their 8-year-old grandson. Al-Hussein has had multiple surgeries, is unemployed and says his two sons left Syria during the war and live as refugees in Lebanon.
This part of Syria is lush with rolling hills and many here are rural families who once lived off the land.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
This part of Syria is lush with rolling hills and many here are rural families who once lived off the land.
Small vendors sell vegetables and fruits on carts throughout Jableh. Some families here, though, say they often go without breakfast and rely on diets of mainly pita bread, olives, tomatoes and parsley.<strong></strong><strong> </strong>
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
Small vendors sell vegetables and fruits on carts throughout Jableh. Some families here, though, say they often go without breakfast and rely on diets of mainly pita bread, olives, tomatoes and parsley.

President Bashar Assad's government lost full control of Syrian territory in the north to various armed groups, but it still rules much of the rest of the country. Rights groups cite extensive evidence of torture, imprisonment, disappearances as well as the bombing of civilian areas by the government and its Russian allies to hold onto power.

The region of Latakia in western Syria was spared much of that fighting. This is the president's ancestral homeland and a regime stronghold. Members of the minority Alawite community, from which Assad hails, retain key posts throughout this region that is home to Christians and Sunni Muslims, as well.

A man stands in front of a home that was destroyed during the earthquake as two men walk by. One of the men is wearing military camouflage. Men in Jableh wear their uniforms long after they've served in the military because it is often the only durable winter wear they have.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
A man stands in front of a home that was destroyed during the earthquake as two men walk by. One of the men is wearing military camouflage. Men in Jableh wear their uniforms long after they've served in the military because it is often the only durable winter wear they have.
This image shows a poster of Syria's president under the slogan "We continue with you" next to photos of soldiers killed in the war in the city of Jableh. The car window has images of the president and his father, Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria until his death in 2000.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
This image shows a poster of Syria's president under the slogan "We continue with you" next to photos of soldiers killed in the war in the city of Jableh. The car window has images of the president and his father, Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria until his death in 2000.
A family of internally displaced Syrians who fled from the northern city of Aleppo during the war lives at the end of this dirt path, sleeping in a structure with no roof and on the backs of tiny pickup trucks.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
A family of internally displaced Syrians who fled from the northern city of Aleppo during the war lives at the end of this dirt path, sleeping in a structure with no roof and on the backs of tiny pickup trucks.

NPR gained rare access in February to this part of Syria after the earthquakes. Access to the city of Jableh in Latakia province was made possible by accompanying aid workers from the United Arab Emirates, including flights and lodging provided by the UAE, as they assisted Syrians devastated by the earthquakes and 12 years of conflict.

The photos taken in Jableh offer an intimate look at life for millions of people here. Some of these images were taken from a moving car as the Emirates Red Crescent convoy traveled through towns and villages, accompanied by Syrian security forces. Other photos were taken during interviews with Syrian families who say they are traumatized and exhausted by war, and now by the earthquakes and its aftershocks.

Men walk past a store in the city center of Jableh. Military service is mandatory in Syria for men and many in this region have fought in the war.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
Men walk past a store in the city center of Jableh. Military service is mandatory in Syria for men and many in this region have fought in the war.
This image shows a residential building destroyed by the earthquakes in the Assaliya neighborhood of Jableh. Syrian medics say over 800 people died in the earthquakes in the Latakia region, which includes the city of Jableh, and more than 1,300 people were hospitalized.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
This image shows a residential building destroyed by the earthquakes in the Assaliya neighborhood of Jableh. Syrian medics say over 800 people died in the earthquakes in the Latakia region, which includes the city of Jableh, and more than 1,300 people were hospitalized.
The Syrian Red Crescent prepares to distribute boxes of aid donated by the Emirates Red Crescent in the United Arab Emirates. The boxes, which include cooking oil, flour for bread, tea and sugar, contain enough food to last a family over a week.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
The Syrian Red Crescent prepares to distribute boxes of aid donated by the Emirates Red Crescent in the United Arab Emirates. The boxes, which include cooking oil, flour for bread, tea and sugar, contain enough food to last a family over a week.
Mangled electrical wires in the city of Jableh. Syrians across the country are without power throughout much of the day due to a shortage of imported fuel. Many must boil hot water on woodfire for cooking, washing clothes and bathing. The government blames U.S. sanctions for the fuel shortages. The government has also lost control of its northeastern oil fields to U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
Mangled electrical wires in the city of Jableh. Syrians across the country are without power throughout much of the day due to a shortage of imported fuel. Many must boil hot water on woodfire for cooking, washing clothes and bathing. The government blames U.S. sanctions for the fuel shortages. The government has also lost control of its northeastern oil fields to U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces.

Jableh, once brimming with tourists drawn to its Mediterranean coast and on the cusp of a construction boon, is without electricity most of the day and impoverished. It is isolated from much of the world as a result of U.S. sanctions.

Countless numbers of internally displaced Syrians relocated to Jableh over the course of the war, living in tents or half-finished structures with shoddy construction. Thousands more are now homeless after the earthquakes, setting up makeshift tents in open fields and awaiting any assistance to arrive.

The president's image looms large over dilapidated buildings and shuttered storefronts throughout Jableh. His image, washed out and faded on posters and army checkpoints, harken to an era of stability that too has faded from view.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The United Arab Emirates has sent more than 100 cargo flights of aid to Latakia, Syria, since the earthquakes. This flight was delivering 10 ambulances from Abu Dhabi. Syrians say U.S. sanctions and the impact of the war on the economy have made it extremely difficult to import lifesaving health care equipment and medicine.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
The United Arab Emirates has sent more than 100 cargo flights of aid to Latakia, Syria, since the earthquakes. This flight was delivering 10 ambulances from Abu Dhabi. Syrians say U.S. sanctions and the impact of the war on the economy have made it extremely difficult to import lifesaving health care equipment and medicine.
Syrian women and children left homeless by the earthquakes wave goodbye to a group of Emirati Red Crescent workers who delivered aid in hand.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
Syrian women and children left homeless by the earthquakes wave goodbye to a group of Emirati Red Crescent workers who delivered aid in hand.
Families left homeless by the earthquakes sleep in makeshift tents in an open field in the city of Jableh. Nightfall in the city is dark without electricity and the weather is near-freezing in the evening.
/ Aya Batrawy/NPR
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Aya Batrawy/NPR
Families left homeless by the earthquakes sleep in makeshift tents in an open field in the city of Jableh. Nightfall in the city is dark without electricity and the weather is near-freezing in the evening.

Aya Batrawy

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