2018 Oak Human Rights Fellow Bassam Khabieh made his first appearance at Colby Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Ostrove Auditorium—from Istanbul. Khabieh participated in the event by video link.
An award-winning freelance Syrian photojournalist, Khabieh left Syria last summer, one of more than a million refugees to flee the conflict there. He was granted a visa just last week, ending speculation about whether he would be an Oak Fellow in absentia.
According to Valérie Dionne, director of the Oak Institute, Khabieh was granted a waiver that will allow him to travel to the United States but he was not expected to have his visa in hand in time to attend an exhibition of his work at Colby. Khabieh’s photographs document the Syrian civil war, focusing particularly on the war’s tragic damage to children and civilians.
The war-racked his home city outside of Damascus and Khabieh was often on the scene minutes after airstrikes to photograph the devastation.
Working in information technology, Khabieh took up a camera in 2011 to document the conflict around him. He soon saw his work noticed and circulated by news organizations, including Reuters and The Atlantic. Khabieh’s photographs have been featured by organizations such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization. He was awarded the 2015 Robert Capa Gold Medal for his coverage of the war.
The Overseas Press Club of America, which gives the award, lauded Khabieh’s courage in photographing the conflict and also “for living day in and day out in one of the most hostile and unpredictable environments on the planet.”
Khabieh’s powerful work, Dionne said, will be on exhibit in the atrium of the Diamond Building. The Sept. 11 event included showing of a film about Khabieh directed by Milton Guillén ’15 and shot in Istanbul this summer. The discussion of the history of Syria’s conflicted was explored by Yasser Munif, assistant professor at Emerson College and an expert on Middle Eastern politics.