The understanding of Syria’s devastating civil war has been distorted by the immense danger and difficulty of covering it. Correspondent Aryn Baker and photographer Yuri Kozyrev got to see for themselves, and even for two veterans of horrific war zones, the scenes were shocking. “Where buildings hadn’t collapsed under a barrage of shelling, bombs had peeled away the facades, exposing the rooms within as if they were life-size dollhouses,” says Aryn of the rebel stronghold of Homs. During a rare cease-fire, residents were allowed to return home to salvage whatever they could. Some who had supported the revolt against the regime of Bashar Assad were now just craving the chance to rebuild their lives: sometimes normalcy trumps ideology. Other refugees were more fatalistic. One man pushed an old bicycle loaded with books in French, English and Arabic, the only things the looters had left behind. He had no plans to return. “I am an old man and an engineer,” he said. “Return to what? I will be dead before this city can be rebuilt. This is the end of our history here.”
Churchill said history is written by the victors; it certainly looked that way 100 miles south, in Damascus, where cafés were full and Assad’s image was everywhere–on posters and T-shirts, on windows and flags. Assad is running for “election” against two other candidates, who, one can safely say, are not going to win much of anything. But the fight is not over, and the story of Syria is still being told. Aryn was struck by the complex attitude of ordinary citizens, which she explores in her story. “We should be hearing more from the Syrian civilians who are living this war,” she says, “and less from those who are waging it.”
Nancy Gibbs, MANAGING EDITOR
BEHIND THE STORY
Aryn Baker, center, met Ali, a 27-year-old government soldier, on her first day in Homs as he and his fellow soldiers were stripping wires and cables from a ruined building both to sell the copper and to pre-empt attempts by insurgents to recycle the material into bombs. She was struck by the soldier’s fury at rebels who had just left under a cease-fire agreement. (“I would have burned them all,” he said.) “It was a sobering reminder,” says Baker, “that even if the conflict ends, the resentments will remain for years, if not generations, to come.” For more, read “Has Assad Won?” on page 20.
NOW ON TIME.COM
With the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaching, we pored through the archives of TIME and LIFE–whose words and images elucidated the war from its beginnings–to commemorate the historic Allied victory. Here, a preview of what’s available at time.com/dday.
AFTER THE BATTLE
A gallery of post-D-Day images from the places where the war continued to rage: Saipan, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Berlin and Nagasaki
REFLECTING ON D-DAY
Historian Douglas Brinkley puts the event in context in his essay “The Longest Day”
THE PHOTO THAT ALMOST WASN’T
Former LIFE editor John G. Morris recounts in a video how he salvaged Robert Capa’s iconic Normandy image after others were destroyed
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This appears in the June 09, 2014 issue of TIME.
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