Syrian Earthquake – February 2023
Commissioned by AFP
“When tragedy strikes, like this year with the earthquake in Syria and Turkey, reporting on the rescue operation is extremely challenging. When the earthquake happened, Omar got his family to safety and then got straight to work. He demonstrated incredible courage by hitting the road in complete darkness and delivered unique and compelling footage of the destruction and rescue effort. What stood out to the judges was the keen attention to detail from the hospital to the recovery efforts to the stunning drone footage.”
-News Award Jury
On February 6 2023, nearly 6000 people were killed in Syria when a 7.8-magnitude earth quake hit the north west of the country and neighbouring Turkey. The Syrian government reported 1,414 people were killed in areas under its control, while Turkish-backed officials in Syria put the death toll at 4,537 throughout rebel-held areas of the country.
In the moments after the earthquake struck, Omar Haj Kadour rushed to check on his wife, who was pregnant at the time, and his four-year-old daughter. He escorted them out of the building to a safe place and then got to work.
It was still dark and the quake had knocked out the electricity in most areas. Heading towards Idlib’s western countryside, he navigated streets packed with people who had fled their homes out of fears of potential collapse. As day broke and the scope of the tragedy became clearer, he struggled to contain his concern for the safety of his wider family in Syria and for relatives living across the border as refugees in Turkey. He worked for more than 20 hours straight following the quake, filing multiple videos, including live broadcasts, from some of Syria’s most-heavily hit areas.
After graduating from high school, Omar Haj Kadour completed a two year course at a commercial banking institute in Idlib. He had planned to go on to study business administration in Lattakia, but as protests in Syria grew, he withdrew from classes to avoid the risk of being arrested by the regime.
Omar first started working in journalism in 2005. Along with a group of friends, he created a website covering local events and news in his hometown of Binnish, Idlib. When the uprising in Syria started in 2011, he began documenting the unrest in the streets and cooperating with other local websites and regional media. His coverage documented the protests as they grew and transformed into an armed, country-wide uprising against the ruling regime.
He began working as a photo and video contributor with AFP in 2015. In 2018, he won the Prix Varenne for his video coverage of Syrian war amputees. He has since produced striking reports on Syrian government bombings, the deadly US raid on IS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s compound, detainees held in Syria’s infamous prisons, the Captagon trade, and the aftermath of the 2023 earthquake that rocked Syria and Turkey, among many other subjects.