2020 Photo Contest, General News, 2nd Prize

Russian Mother and her Child at Al-Hol Camp


Alessio Mamo

For L'Espresso

14 November, 2019

A Russian woman carries her child while queuing at a makeshift hospital in ‘The Annex’, at Al-Hol Refugee Camp in northern Syria.

Al-Hol was home to tens of thousands of refugees, many of them the wives and children of suspected Islamic State group (IS) fighters displaced from former IS-held territory in northeastern Syria. Many women played an important role in IS recruitment via social media and jihadist forums. ‘The Annex’ housed women of foreign origin. Western countries generally hesitated to repatriate former IS members, citing security risks, although some did accept orphaned children. As the campaign against IS grew more successful, al-Hol, which was controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), overfilled and conditions grew squalid, with hundreds of people, particularly children, dying of disease and malnutrition. In early October, US president Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from the Syrian-Turkish border area, where they had been supporting the SDF, ahead of a Turkish military incursion into the area. The SDF suspended counter-IS operations to focus on the Turkish incursion. Unrest broke out at al-Hol and there were reports of escapes, as people sensed SDF control over the camp was weakening.

About the photographer

Alessio Mamo

Alessio Mamo is a Sicilian photographer based in Catania, Italy and a regular contributor for The Guardian and L'Espresso.   After completing a degree in chemistry, Ma...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

This image is collected in