In November 2005, I travelled to Aleppo, Syria; a city of light brown rocks and happy people in colourful dresses. Throughout the history, Aleppo has been taken and ruled by so many; the Assyrians, Neo-Babylonians, the Persians, Alexander the Great, Roman, Byzantines..etc. On my journey, I met the happy citizens of Aleppo, wonderful people who were very welcoming. Among them was a family who spoke fluent Turkish, who used to lived in Turkey but moved back to their hometown, Aleppo because the industry was getting better there. They moved back there with the hope of a beautiful future to be spent close to their families, friends.

On that journey, I took my Leica and get lost in the streets by myself as usual. The family had a 16-year-old son who guided me to Aleppo Castle “Citadel of Aleppo” to see the unforgettable view of this light brown city of rocks on a sunset. We climbed up and down the ruins of the castle.

7 years later my visit, in August 2012, it is reported that during the Battle of Aleppo of the Syrian civil war, the external gate of the citadel was damaged after being shelled during a clash between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army to gain control over the citadel and in July 2015, a bomb was reportedly set off in a tunnel under one of the outer walls causing further damage to the citadel. During the conflict, the Syrian Army used the Citadel as a military base, with the walls acting as cover while shelling surrounding areas and ancient arrow slits in walls being used by snipers to target rebels. As a result of this contemporary usage, the Citadel has received significant damage.

On my journey, I went to the Aleppo market on my own where many people were trading and shopping. There were bikes left in the alleys. But most important than all, the children were laughing and running free on the streets, there were ladies` colourful dresses hanging on the walls. There were smiles, laughter and colours in the city. When I saw two kids running towards me with laughter, I couldn`t resist to capture that moment of cuteness to keep their smile forever on a frame. In May 2014, BBC reported that at least 33 people have been killed in an air strike on a market in a rebel-held district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. The United Nations Children’s Fund expressed outrage at the indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

We are watching citizens of Syria leaving their countries with their kids and families with the hope to find a better, safer place where the colours exist as it once existed in their country. Some of their hope was taken by the water and the tears washed ashore. According to UNHCR, the Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year). Reuters reported that as of February 2015, Turkey has become world’s biggest refugee hosting country having 2.2 million Syrian and 300.000 Iraqi refugees and had spent more than US$7.6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.

If you have your loved ones close to you today, enjoying the day with a smile on your face, if you live in a place where colours on your streets still exist, if you know that you will wake up to a safe tomorrow where you don’t have to run away. If the idea of the sea and the beach puts a smile on your face, if the one you love is next to you or on the same boat with you or you can call him/her anytime you want, then consider yourself very very lucky; you have the colours in your streets and in your life, the music keeps playing.  And remember the ones who are working hard to get to the point where you are now. Guided with the hope of a better, safer future, we should call them “The Brave Citizens of Syria”.