“Yellow Vest” Protests Captured by Syrian Photographers

An officer catching fire during the 2017 May Day protests (AFP)

An officer catching fire during the 2017 May Day protests (AFP)

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On Paris’ Champs-Élysées, Syrian journalists make their way among the “Yellow Vest” protesters, covering the demonstrations which broke out mid-November and are yet ongoing.

The photographs taken by these Syrian journalists, requested by the agencies they work for, went viral on social media and international news websites.

Zakaria Abdelkafi, one of AFP’s photographers, based in Paris since 2016, is covering the demonstrations with his camera, along with Abdulmonam Eassa and Sameer Al-Doumy, two Syrian photographers from Eastern Ghouta.

Zakaria said that he was not surprised by the anti-government demonstrations, for he has covered former similar movements, after the French President Emmanuel Macron failed to meet many of the promises, he made to his voters, in relation to tax regulations, economy and income.

The photographer, from the city of Aleppo, added that he was surprised, as it is the first time, he witnesses demonstrations with such an amount of violence.

“You get the feeling that you are on a real battlefield. On the Champs-Élysées, nothing has survived, everything has been sabotaged, shops, cars, even the Triumphal Arch was not spared,” he said.

Zakaria said this, while undergoing many emotional shifts about what is going on around him. He was not surprised by the break out of the demonstration, but, at the same time, he was taken abash by the degree of violence that the protests triggered.

The photographer, winner of several awards, highlighted the difference between the protests he is covering today at the French Capital and the demonstration that broke out at the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011.

He said that what is taking place in France today is not as cruel as what took place in Syria, for the photographer is sure that he will not lose his life despite the massive violence, “at worst” you might be exposed to gas or water. In Syria, you do not know where or when you will be dying due to direct attacks.

In France, the protesters ask the police for the location of the demonstrations, Zakaria added, you can go there and simply be part of the action. This did not, and will not, happen in Syria.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) chose Zakaria and other young men based in Paris, who had been granted asylum, to cover on the ground happenings because, as he put it, they have sufficient experience of covering events, those violence-related in particular.

Zakaria said: “The Agency knows that I am experienced in covering this type of action,” adding that “every week, [I am] included in the agency’s team to cover the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests everywhere.”

 

The French Demonstrations Observed by Syrians

The French protests broke out as a reaction to a rise in fuel prices and in refusal of the President Emmanuel Macron’s policy in general. The protests escalated and turned into clashes between the protesters and the police, according to France Press.

The French forces arrested over 300 persons and about 100 others were injured, including 20 of the police and security forces as a result of the violent confrontations between the police and the protesters, in which the first deployed water cannons, sound bombs and tear gas at the Champs-Élysées, near the Louvre Museum.

The Syrian photographer, who has been covering all types of sport and political events, said that the country was expected to witness such demonstration, but not violence, for the French President is not that popular and is known as the “president of the Rich”.

He added that Macron did not do anything, he promised the people and did not keep these promises; he imposed taxes on the poor and middle-class people and exempted the wealthy Persians.

Zakaria Abdelkafi believes that each protester with demands has the right to demonstrate for them, “I am with the protesters demanding their rights,” but “[I am] against” many of the other things that happened, such as sabotaging shops and damaging the Triumphal Arch, as well as destroying antiques and looting shops. No one would approve this; the protesters, during the peaceful days of the Syrian revolution, did not do what French protesters are doing today.

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