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Wartime love or propaganda? Syria wedding photos not all they seem

At first glance, Jafar Meray’s viral wedding photos are stunning, despite the grey, drab Syrian background. On closer inspection, however, the pictures take on a whole different meaning.

Syrian photographer Jafar Meray captured the dramatic photographs (above) of a newly married couple amongst the rubble of the war-torn Syrian city of Homs.

Eighteen-year-old university student Nada Merhi and her bridegroom, 27-year-old Hassan Youssef, were married at the start of the month in the old city of Homs, 160 kilometers (99 miles) north of the capital, Damascus.

The pair's affectionate embrace and the bride's white wedding gown and glistening tiara make for a powerful visual statement against the backdrop of destroyed buildings, rubble and bullet-ridden walls of the razed city.

The photographer, Jafar Meray told DW he's an avid supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and that, through showing the devastation of his home city, he "wanted to show we are still able to love and show love."

“We used destroyed building to show hope…Love is fundamental to re-building the country," he said.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

The 22-year-old photographer has been working professionally for about a year says he's trying to show that "Life goes on."

"It might show destroyed buildings, but if you put something beautiful in the picture, then you can still show the beauty and the thing that is beautiful in these pictures is love," the photographer said.

Meray's photographs have since gone viral.

But are they what they seem?

The man pictured in army fatigues is a member of Bashar al-Assad's government forces, the same army responsible for destroying Homs during the almost six-year civil war between pro-Syria forces and Syrian rebels.

It's the same force that through airstrikes, artillery attacks and mortar and rocket fire targeted, and killed, occupying rebel groups.

This has left some on social media questioning whether the photographs are being used as a means of pro-government propaganda.

Even if the photographs are not propaganda, users on social media have hit back saying the photos are distasteful and disrespectful to the people who have lost their lives in the war.

One DW News Facebook user wrote that, "This soldier serves in an army responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians…There's nothing romantic, nor beautiful, about an 18-year-old girl marrying a possible war criminal."

When asked whether the project was being backed by the regime, Meray told DW he had "gotten a lot of support from the Syrian state and they appreciated [his] idea." When pressed further, the budding photographer refused to elaborate, other than to say he has had wide public support for his photography series.

"Five percent of Syrian people are against what I am doing," he said. But that does not seem to worry him. "At the end of the day, the soldiers are part of the Syrian people, and I am photographing the Syrian people."

Meray is not the only one taking professional wedding photographs in war-torn Syria.

Last year, other photographs emerged showing a wedding in Homs' semi-destroyed St. George's Church, a Greek Orthodox place of worship that had lost its roof in the fighting.

More than 260,000 people have died since the civil war began in Syria in 2011.

Millions have fled their homes

with over 2.7 million seeking refuge in neighboring Turkey. Hundreds of thousands have made their way to Europe, creating a massive refugee crisis.

*Additional reporting by Ibtisam Fawsy.

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