Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Sheikh and his Daughter, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Summer of 2009

I have known this man and his family for over sixteen years. In this small, tent city my photography was born. Since we first met five of his children have been born, including the young girl standing next to him. He is a brother to me, as she is a daughter.

Along with my blood family nearby, these are the faces that greet me in Lebanon. The expression on her face is the expression she shows me time and time again. She is aware of my love for her, and he allows this love to be expressed. In my travels this is quite rare, regardless of culture or location.

As a matter of fact, during this visit it happened. We were walking back from the end of the dirt path towards this very spot when she looked up at me and said these words: 'you are my father, my uncle and my brother.'

She said these words without pause in response to my words: 'you are my mother, my sister and my daughter.' This is how comfortable this family allows me to be. While the work can be difficult at times, should anything happen that makes me feel like leaving, one conversation with this man and everything is straightened out.

On one occasion his own brother and I argued and it seemed that my work was finished. When he caught wind of the argument, he took it upon himself to call a meeting with the elders of the village. They listened to both sides and allowed me back into the village and into the lives of their girls.

This summer will mark three years since my last visit, and due to the instability in the region this year it seems improbable once again to visit. These wonderful people are Syrians living in Lebanon for the sake of work. Their girls work in the fields at least twelve hours a day while the boys work in various shops around town.

They live incredibly difficult lives, and do with the minimum while working in Lebanon until their return to Syria. It seems that this return is in peril at this moment, but my hope is that peace returns to their homeland and that they are safe while in Lebanon.

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Halim Ina Photography