Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn?

Collection with 17 media items created by U.S. Editor

13 Apr 2013 09:00

A photojournalist captures the forces that are involved in the conflict of Ras al-Ayn, Syria, and the civilians effected by the ongoing conflict. The photographs lead-up to the fighting that drove members from Jabhat al-Nusra and the FSA from the city on July 17. It is a battle for control over the identity of this ancient city — called Serekaniye by the Kurdish fighters and Ras al-Ayn by Arabs — that exemplifies the complexity of Syria’s civil war and the different ideologies involved. The YPG want autonomy. Jabhat al-Nusra is fighting for an Islamic state. The Free Syrian Army, who are allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, is losing morale and desperate for weapons and supplies. The journalist was in the city during the time of the second ceasefire. Pictured are the homes of Assad supporters who have since disappeared, Jabhat al-Nusra fighters, YPG and the Kurdish Women Defense Forces (YPJ), who were the catalyst for the most recent fighting.

Ypg Fsa Assad Syria Syrian War Children Families War Front Lines Politics Mena Photo Collec...

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (1 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
13 Apr 2013

April 13, 2013. Um Nasir stands in the alley next to her house where heavy fighting took place earlier.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (2 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
20 Apr 2013

April 20, 2013. Mohamed Abu Ahmed is asleep in the house they now call base camp. It used to be owned by a pro-Assad family. Where they are now is unclear.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (3 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
24 Apr 2013

April 24, 2013. Abu Ahmed, originally from Iraq, demonstrates on a passing neighbor girl how to behead someone. "With these hands I cannot hold my wife or my baby. My hands are dirty. When I fight, I go crazy. ... shows a video on his phone where he is seen torturing and beheading a shabiha ... After fighting, the next day, I look in my phone, and only then I realize what I did. I love the killing."

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (4 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
13 Jul 2013

April 13, 2013. Three children talk in front of their family homes. This used to be the frontline in the YPG-FSA fights.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (5 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
13 Apr 2013

April 13, 2013. Muhamed's house is on the old front line. During the last fights, he sent his family to safety and fought the FSA on the other side of the street. The fights lasted 5 days, during which he did not sleep or leave his house. When the fights finished, he wrote: "Even when the parties destroy, burn, and kill everything ... I will not leave my house."

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (6 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
12 Jul 2013

April 12, 2013. Entering Serekaniye from the YPG side, the war seems forgotten on the soccer field.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (7 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
24 Apr 2013

April 24, 2013. Ziad buys ice cream from a passing vendor. Before the war, he was a house painter. Now, he will fight until Assad falls.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (8 of 17)
Ras al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
13 Jul 2013

April 12, 2013. Ziad, an FSA fighter, rides one of the local neighborhood children's bicycles. When there is no fighting, the rebels are often bored.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (9 of 17)
Ras Al Ain, Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
21 Apr 2013

Abu Yusuf separates the men from the women in the line at the bakery.

He fights for the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al Nusra faction. In Ras al Ain, Nusra is allied with the FSA, where they have jointly fought the YPG.

In the night of 16 July, the YPG attacked the FSA and Jabhat al Nusra. In one night, at least 9 FSA/Nusra members died. Abu Yusuf shaved his beard and fled to Turkey.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (10 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
21 Apr 2013

Abu Islam hangs around, bored, in the bedroom of Khalil Rezayzo's children. Khalil used to be an active supporter of Assad. The family's current location is unclear. The FSA fighters that are under command of Osama now call this house base camp. Abu Islam comes from Al Qamishli but has been fighting mainly in Ras al Ayn.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (11 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
21 Apr 2013

Osama, commander of an FSA battalion, test fires a new Kalashnikov in the garden of the house that his battalion now calls base. Osama is a Kurd from Al Qamishli. When the revolution began, he tried to start a Kurdish FSA battalion. But after the first fights against the YPG, he gave up on that. "I am still Kurdish, but what the PYD wants is not what every Kurd wants. Kurdistan should be under control of Damascus. This town, that the PKK calls Serekaniye, I call it Ras al Ayn."

Commander losses are not easy on him. "I usually retreat as the last person. That way I feel less guilty when my men die."

During the last fights with the YPG (16 July) his battalion got run out of Ras al Ayn. Some of his men died. The survivors are currently fighting elsewhere.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (12 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
23 Apr 2013

Osama and Haitem prepare newly delivered kalashnikovs and ammunition. The FSA command structure decides who receives which weapons. As Osama's brigade is relatively small (50 men) they don't get as many heavy weapons as they would want. Usama had a hard time getting proper weaponry from the FSA leaders of the Hasaka district. Many of Osama's men would prefer to fight for Jabhat al Nusra, as they have good weapons and claim many victories. In the last fights in Ras al Ayn, they fought together with Nusra as allies.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (13 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
24 Apr 2013

Husam (19, FSA) hurriedly gets dressed when the rumor of a Kurdish People's Defense Unit (YPG) attack spreads. The attack did not occur, and a few hours later all the rebels were back in bed. Husam strongly believes Assad should be removed. He also believes the YPG is trying to split up Syria, something he will fight against, as well.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (14 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
23 Apr 2013

Husam (19, Free Syrian Army) patrols a street, expecting a YPG attack. It is not clear if Husam was among the 9-15 dead in the most recent fighting in Ras al Ayn.

The YPG now call the town Serekaniye, its Kurdish name.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (15 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
24 Apr 2013

An Arab boy flies a kite in the FSA/Jabhat al-Nusra controlled part of Ras al Ayn. The YPG-controlled part is called Serekaniye, the preferred name by most Kurdish citizens.

As there was a ceasefire at the time of taking this photo, the situation was relatively calm.

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (16 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
13 Apr 2013

Three YPG fighters have breakfast at their base. Their victories over the FSA are easily explained: "The FSA rebels are not trained and don't know how to fight. They're not even from here. They should fight Assad, not us. This town will be called Serekaniye; Ras al Ayn is a new Arab name. It was never named like that before."

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Serekaniye or Ras al Ayn (17 of 17)
Syria
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
12 Jul 2013

Roken fights with the YPJ, the Kurdish Women's Defense Forces. She joined the YPJ after she saw the devastation of the fights with the Free Syrian Army last November.