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Raqqa's ashes
Syria, 2021

Afra Al-Ahmed is a dead washer. So is her husband. So was her mother. So will be one of her children. 

Her thin fingers stroked burnt skin, bloodless flesh and broken bones. Her hazel eyes saw faces frozen in a last cry of agony. This has been her mission for nearly twenty years: cleansing bodies before burial, as dictated by Muslim tradition. "I have washed so many dead in my life, but with the war it has become more and more difficult" says the 50-year-old, wearing a weary smile and a copper-colored velvet dress. "There are victims I couldn't wash because they were too damaged. I remember a young girl killed in an explosion."


We met Afra Al-Ahmed and her family in Raqqa, the first provincial capital to be seized from government control by rebel groups. It then became ISIS’s de facto capital before the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces ousted the jihadists in October 2017. 

All this time, Afra and her husband Abo washed belligerents and civilians alike, bearing witness to ten years of war.


Report with Wilson Fache, published in Liberation (FR), Newsweek Japan, and nominated for the Visa D'Or of the Daily Press 2021, Prix Bayeux 2021 (written category). Exhibited in November 2021 at Rencontres Photos du 10e Arrondissement, and National Museum of Artillery (Torino, Italy)

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