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This Powerful Photo From Aleppo Has A Heartbreaking Story Behind It

A picture by AFP photographer Joseph Eid of 70-year-old Syrian Mohammad Mohiedine Anis sitting in the ruins of his home has been widely shared on social media.

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This is Mohammad Mohiedine Anis. He's a 70-year-old Syrian who lives in the al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

This powerful image of Anis, sitting in the rubble-strewn ruins of his family home, smoking his pipe, and listening to his vinyl records in a city ravaged by years of civil war, was taken by AFP's Joseph Eid.

Eid, a Beirut-born photographer, told BuzzFeed News he wanted to track down Anis to see how he was doing several months after his AFP colleague wrote about him during the deadly siege of eastern Aleppo. "We searched for him in the neighborhood, we asked about him to the residents there and they led us immediately to his house. We knocked the big green steel gate and he opened for us," Eid said.

The image has been shared thousands of times on social media in the last couple of days. The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor posted it on his Twitter account on Monday, and since then his tweet alone has been retweeted 6,000 times.

"I knew that it would make a strong picture but never thought that it would go viral as it did," Eid told BuzzFeed News.

Anis — also known as Abu Omar — is a classic-car enthusiast who stayed in the city through years of war and months of intense aerial bombardment.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

In his early life, he lived abroad, having studied medicine in Zaragoza, Spain, in the 1970s, before moving to Turin, Italy, to translate a Fiat car manual into Arabic, AFP reported.

When he moved back to Aleppo, he started a cosmetics factory.

His passion, however, is vintage cars — an interest he inherited from his father, who was a wealthy businessman working in the textile industry. He drove a 1950 Pontiac, which Anis still owns today.

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Anis used to own 30 vintage vehicles. However, his collection has been reduced to 20 during the intense bombing of the eastern part of the city last year, during which many of them were destroyed or stolen.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

Thirteen of his cars are still parked outside his home and in his garden, but seven were impounded by police because they blocked the road.

His favorite car is this 1947 Cadillac convertible, which according to AFP, has driven at least six presidents over the years.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

In 1958, it was used to drive Egypt and Syria's then-presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Shukri al-Quwatli through the streets of Damascus as they celebrated the proclamation of the short-lived United Arab Republic.

"I bought it 12 years ago at auction for just 620 [Syrian] pounds, but then had to pay 100 times that in taxes because it had never gone through customs," Anis said. He had to remove the steering wheel and seats and kept it hidden indoors to prevent it from being stolen.

The war has taken its toll on Anis's collection, however. "They are all wounded," he said, as he showed AFP his cars.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

The damage could have been worse, however, as neighbors somehow managed to persuade rebel fighters not to mount an anti-aircraft gun on a 1958 Chevrolet during the siege of the eastern part of the city.

Anis even said he intended to expand his collection, and had turned down offers from foreign buyers.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

He insists he will leave his collection to his eight children. "I will distribute them in keeping with religious law: two for each boy and one for each girl," he says.

In the final two months of the siege of eastern Aleppo last year, the bombardment was so dangerous that Anis decided to leave his home — and his car collection.

When he returned this year, he found his house in ruins. "When I got back and saw what was left of my home, I was in shock," he said. The photo was taken as he consoled himself by listening to Syrian singer Mohamed Dia al-Din on his record player.

Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty Images

"I have had a very happy past but things have changed," he said.

"Now life is hard, but we mustn't lose hope."

Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Francis Whittaker at francis.whittaker@buzzfeed.com.

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