Brave mum captures unseen beauty within war torn Syria
A brave mum has captured snapshots of the unseen beauty within war torn Syria for a stunning Christmas calendar.
Janice Kortkamp, 54, from Leesburg in Virginia, USA, visited the warzone twice this year and claims to be one of the few American allowed in as a tourist in 2016.
She documented her journey in a series of pictures to showcase the lesser-seen beauty of Syria and turned it into a Christmas calendar, named Spectacular Syria 2017.
The mum-of-two is hoping her pictures will change the perception that Syria is ‘one bombed out city after another’ and show the indomitable spirit of the people living there.
The stunning shots showcase the luscious green mountainsides, historical castles and ancient relics within the country.
On her travels, though she says she felt safe, she ventured near to ISIS stronghold and had a mortar land within 100 yards of her hotel.
Janice said: “I personally want to break the perception that people have in the West that Syria is just one bombed out city after another.
“There are a lot of areas left there that are beautiful and welcoming.
“The cover shot is Damascus at night, which was taken after a night to the opera house and after the people realised we were Americans, they gathered round all wanting selfies.
“Another one was in a castle in the hills, it’s like something out of a fairy tale, beautiful gorgeous forests, ivy covered castles.
“There’s a lot of green woods in Syria, there are ancient oaks, a whole mountainside of them
“The country is glorious, it has archaeological and historical treasures that are unsurpassed in the world, the food is fabulous and there’s a lot of art and culture.
“I want to normalise Syria and to introduce people in the West to what it’s really like living there.”
Despite the danger caused by the ongoing war in Syria, which started six years ago, Janice says she embraced the fearless spirit of the locals.
She added: “There were some days where the terrorists were constantly barraging the civilian area with mortars, some were landing within 100 yards of our hotel.
“One of the homes I stayed in was two and a half kilometres from an ISIS stronghold, I passed that village and within 24-hours it was raided by Al Qaeda.
“I also spent a bit of time in Homs which is about 60% gone and looks like something out of a Mad Max post-apocalyptic nightmare.
“That said I can 100% honestly say I never felt afraid there, it’s a spirit you catch from the Syrians and that’s the attitude I adopted.
“The Syrians are exceptionally gracious people, they are highly educated, poets and are world famous for their hospitality.”
During her first trip, Janice spoke to scientists, artists, professors, factory workers as well as religious and political leaders to understand more about the realities of living in Syria.
She believes the area still has a lot of beauty, despite a lot of westerners not initially sharing the same view.
Janice said: “Most people’s first reaction when you tell them you’re going to Syria is ‘You must be crazy to go over there’
“It’s considered the most dangerous country in the world and that’s an opportunity for me to educate people and explain the realities.”
She’s selling her calendars for $25 (20.00GBP) and hopes they will change people’s beliefs and help them see the beauty behind the terror.
Janice has remained friends with a lot of the people she met and says that she struggles knowing what many Syrians face.
Janice said: “Looking at the pictures is bittersweet because I know stories from people there, they are utterly weary of this war.
“It’s not just the violence, the economic sanctions from the West strange the human population there.
“Most people there right now live with only two hours of electricity a day, if you want gasoline you can be waiting for up to six hours.
“A pair of jeans that cost you around $30 before the war cost $300 now, yet your income is the same.
“It’s such a painful nightmare what’s going on out there, all the Syrians want is for the terrorists to be defeated and their country to be returned as it was.”
To purchase a calendar visit: www.gofundme.com/syria2017calendar