Crossing the border out of Syria and leaving the oppression of ISIS behind, Jack Shahine's images sum up everything amazing about freedom, fashion and identity…
Imagine if, after a lifetime of wandering around in skinny jeans and mini skirts, crop tops, vest tops, tank tops and those slightly-questionable-totally-see-through-fishnet-tops, the government suddenly decided that – no matter what your religion – you had to start wearing two layers of veils at all times. That you couldn’t leave the house without a male companion. And that to disobey – even once – could lead to sexual abuse, violence, or death.
For women in Syria, this isn’t something that they have to imagine. Ever since ISIS began to take control of the capital city of Raqqa back in 2013, the population – which was at one point estimated to be 10 per cent Christian – has been subject to oppressive, extremist ruling. And in early 2014, they decreed that all women were to be forced to cover their bodies from head to toe, regardless of their religion.
Which is just one reason why photographer Jack Shahine’s images of women tearing off their veils as they escape are so powerful.
Shared thousands of times on social media over the last few weeks, the portraits show two women standing up in their vehicles to tear off their veils and reveal bright, primary-coloured dresses underneath. Spotted as they crossed the border out of Tel Abyad (and into an area under Kurdish control), the pair look euphoric and relieved, but urgent too – like the idea of waiting a moment more could be a moment too much.
And while it’s not sure if the women deliberately wore their brightest, nicest, most attention-grabbing dresses to make a political statement, or if they even knew a photographer was on hand to capture it, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
After all, they’re finally free, and can finally express themselves however they want to.
You can see more of Jack’s work here.