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War rocks the Middle East, but love must go on

 

Agence France-Presse

Nicosia, Cyprus  /  Tue, February 11, 2020  /  06:08 pm
  • Sundus Garis (left), 16, and Farid Mallo, 19, both from the beleaguered Yazidi community who were displaced from northern Iraq's Sinjar region, are pictured outside a tent before leaving the Kabarto 2 camp for internally displaced people to the wedding hall in the nearby northernwestern Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk, not far from the border with Turkey, on January 23, 2020.

    Sundus Garis (left), 16, and Farid Mallo, 19, both from the beleaguered Yazidi community who were displaced from northern Iraq's Sinjar region, are pictured outside a tent before leaving the Kabarto 2 camp for internally displaced people to the wedding hall in the nearby northernwestern Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk, not far from the border with Turkey, on January 23, 2020. OF AFP/Safin Hamed

    Sundus Garis (left), 16, and Farid Mallo, 19, both from the beleaguered Yazidi community who were displaced from northern Iraq's Sinjar region, are pictured outside a tent before leaving the Kabarto 2 camp for internally displaced people to the wedding hall in the nearby northernwestern Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk, not far from the border with Turkey, on January 23, 2020.

  • Yemenis dance at a wedding ceremony in the old city of Sanaa on December 19, 2019.

    Yemenis dance at a wedding ceremony in the old city of Sanaa on December 19, 2019. OF AFP/Mohammed Huwais

    Yemenis dance at a wedding ceremony in the old city of Sanaa on December 19, 2019.

  • Wedding dresses are seen in the destroyed window of a bridal shop in a damaged building in Balyun in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on December 8, 2019, the day after a reported Russian airstrike on a market in the village.

    Wedding dresses are seen in the destroyed window of a bridal shop in a damaged building in Balyun in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on December 8, 2019, the day after a reported Russian airstrike on a market in the village. OF AFP/Aaref Watad

    Wedding dresses are seen in the destroyed window of a bridal shop in a damaged building in Balyun in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on December 8, 2019, the day after a reported Russian airstrike on a market in the village.

  • Mustafa Ramadan, a Kurdish groom, dances as he enters his wedding ceremony in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria on December 20, 2019.

    Mustafa Ramadan, a Kurdish groom, dances as he enters his wedding ceremony in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria on December 20, 2019.  OF AFP/Delil Souleiman

    Mustafa Ramadan, a Kurdish groom, dances as he enters his wedding ceremony in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria on December 20, 2019.

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"Love, we have no aim but to be defeated in your wars," wrote the Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish. Despite the armed conflicts devastating the Middle East, occasionally love comes out victorious.

From the battlefields of Syria to the ruined cities of Yemen, journalists bear witness to violence and destruction every day--but sometimes they capture glimmers of hope, beauty and even romance.

To mark Valentine's Day, AFP has selected some of its most powerful recent images of love.

AFP photographer Safin Hamed recalls accompanying a young couple from Iraq's Yazidi minority from their tent in a squalid refugee camp to their December wedding at a modest hall in nearby Dohuk city.

"It was a basic party, there wasn't a meal, just cake," he said.

"But they really wanted to express their happiness and to dance."

The young bride and groom were just children when the Islamic State group stormed through their rugged home region of Sinjar in 2014, kidnapping thousands of women and girls as "sex slaves", killing men en masse and taking boys as soldiers.

But even after six years living on humanitarian aid in a refugee camp, the couple "loved life and wanted to keep going... despite everything that had happened to them," Hamed said. 

Guests gathered in bright traditional clothes, and a small band played raucous Kurdish wedding music.

"Even when the music finished, they wanted the band to play on," Hamed said.

"Despite their suffering, they were looking after themselves, getting their hair done in a salon, wearing nice clothes."

Weddings in the shadow of war, whether in squalid refugee camps or bombed-out towns, can be defiant celebrations of life and expressions of hope for a better future.

In Yemen's rebel-held capital of Sanaa, Mohammed Huwais photographed men dancing in the streets to celebrate a marriage in the shadow of a war that has created what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In Syria's war-torn northwestern province of Idlib, AFP photojournalist Aaref Watad captured chilling images of a wedding dress in the blown-out facade of a bridal shop, on December 8, 2019, the day after a reported Russian airstrike on a market in the village.

And in the country's northeast, Mustafa Ramadan and Luvin Yusuf had to postpone their wedding as Turkey and its rebel proxies launched an offensive against Kurdish forces they view as "terrorists".

When they finally married in the city of Qamishli, the wedding hall was filled with Kurdish patriotic songs, clapping, singing and laughing, said AFP photographer Delil Souleiman. 

"It was so different from working amid bombardment, displacement and death," he said.

"It was full of music, colors, happiness and dancing."

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