TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Moving Portrait of a Syrian Rebel Fighter

19-year-old Syrian rebel fighter Mamar Obein sits for a portrait at a small medical clinic inside Turkey where he was being treated for a head injury after he was hit by debris in what he said was a drone attack.
Ivor Prickett—Panos Pictures for TIME 19-year-old Syrian rebel fighter Mamar Obin sits for a portrait at a small medical clinic inside Turkey where he was being treated for a head injury. He was hit by debris in what he said was a drone attack.

"He said he was willing to fight until death"

Mamar Ubin is 19 years old. He is one of the thousands of Syrians to have joined the ranks of the rebel armies, fighting against Bashar Assad’s regime.

The rebellion, now in its sixth year, is in crisis, as TIME’s Middle East bureau chief Jared Malsin writes in this week’s issue. “In the area surrounding Aleppo, the rebels are now engaged in a three-pronged fight with the regime, ISIS, and now Kurdish militias who saw an opportunity in the Russian air offensive to expand their territory at the expense of predominantly Arab Syrian rebels,” Malsin explains.

Read next: Syria’s Lost Cause

Ubin joined the rebels about seven months ago and was soon deployed to the front lines, to face regime forces in the hills of the Bashoura area. In early February, a drone strike targeted his unit of 15 fighters and he was struck in the head by debris. His comrades whisked him across the border to a clinic in Reyhanli in Turkey.

That’s where Malsin and photographer Ivor Prickett met him. “He was being treated for a head injury,” Prickett tells TIME. “One of the most striking things about Mamar was how frail and young he looked. It was hard to imagine him running around on the battlefield.”

Ubin spoke passionately about the fight, recounting stories from his months on the front lines. “He was clearly itching to go back as soon as possible,” says Prickett. “He said he was willing to fight until death.”

Prickett had little time withUbin but recalls that the limitation hardly mattered. “I knew exactly how I wanted to photograph him as soon as I met him,” he says. “He was battered but so resolute.”

Ivor Prickett is an Irish photographer based in Istanbul.

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