Voices of Refugees: A Collection of Stories on Human Displacement

 

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Amidst one of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, millions of displaced refugees and asylum-seekers are fleeing war-torn countries affected by conflict. Through all of the unimaginable violence, pain, and torture, these people are seeking a path to safety and peace.

Voices of Refugees is a collection of stories revealing the human perspective behind the global refugee crisis. Men, women, and children, each with their own unique stories, are risking their lives seeking refuge from war and violence. Along their journeys to safety, many have found themselves stranded in camps for months on end, or struggling for years to maintain a steady life due to endless bureaucratic limbo. This project aims at shedding a light on individual stories, through the various mediums of photography, texts, audio and video, in an effort to expose the realities of human displacement.

Voices of Refugees was founded by myself and Clara Veale, a fellow volunteer working on the ground at refugee camps in Greece. We both felt compelled to share the simultaneously raw, beautiful, distressing and profoundly human stories of the people we had shared our hours with each day. Beyond Greece, Voices of Refugees has transformed into a collective space for international refugee stories from across the globe.

To learn more about the creation & vision of the project, Check out these two interviews:

Georgia Political Review & The Asheville Grit

To learn more about my experience volunteering at a Syrian refugee camp in Greece, Check out these publications on The Huffington Post:

Notes from a Refugee Camp: Volunteering in Greece

Notes from a Refugee Camp: Voices of Refugees

  Salah, 29 years old, from Aleppo, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal “It is difficult to imagine that in Europe, in the 21st Century, it is possible to put human beings in tents without the possibility of leaving. I am sure most zoos in Europe are better taken care of than this camp. This place is not humane. We are just looking for a safe and decent place to live.” “The only thing that makes me smile these days is my daughter, Peria. Her name means ‘angel’ in Kurdish. I only hope that she can grow up in a peaceful place, free from danger.”

 

Salah, 29 years old, from Aleppo, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal

“It is difficult to imagine that in Europe, in the 21st Century, it is possible to put human beings in tents without the possibility of leaving. I am sure most zoos in Europe are better taken care of than this camp. This place is not humane. We are just looking for a safe and decent place to live.”

“The only thing that makes me smile these days is my daughter, Peria. Her name means ‘angel’ in Kurdish. I only hope that she can grow up in a peaceful place, free from danger.”

Siba, 20 years old from Qamishli, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal "The Border" by Siba Alsaker "Dream: If I want to do something, I will do it. I want to complete my studies, therefore I will complete my studies. I will do everything as I want to, and follow how I feel. No one can take away my dream, and the border is not my dream. My dream is to see these refugee children with a future, a safe life, able to go back to Syria and live a normal life like before - but thanks to Europe for making me a stronger person. My dream is infinite."  

Siba, 20 years old from Qamishli, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal

"The Border" by Siba Alsaker

"Dream: If I want to do something, I will do it. I want to complete my studies, therefore I will complete my studies. I will do everything as I want to, and follow how I feel. No one can take away my dream, and the border is not my dream. My dream is to see these refugee children with a future, a safe life, able to go back to Syria and live a normal life like before - but thanks to Europe for making me a stronger person. My dream is infinite."

 
Hala Baroud, 28 years old, from Latakia, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal “When we arrived at the refugee camp, I cried and cried. ‘How can we live here, in tents, in the middle of a forest, when it is so cold and muddy?’ I told my husband. It took me two months to get used to the idea that this was our life now, that we are truly refugees.” "One of the most difficult things for me here is the feeling that I have lost my family, my husband, and I have lost my son here. We used to have it all, but now we depend on the volunteers for food, for clothes, for everything. We have to ask for the smallest things, like some washing powder - it is humiliating. My son asks me for something but I cannot buy it for him, so he asks the volunteers instead. He has become a beggar, like a street child, and I cannot stand to see that. I feel like I have lost him to this place.”

Hala Baroud, 28 years old, from Latakia, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal

“When we arrived at the refugee camp, I cried and cried. ‘How can we live here, in tents, in the middle of a forest, when it is so cold and muddy?’ I told my husband. It took me two months to get used to the idea that this was our life now, that we are truly refugees.”


"One of the most difficult things for me here is the feeling that I have lost my family, my husband, and I have lost my son here. We used to have it all, but now we depend on the volunteers for food, for clothes, for everything. We have to ask for the smallest things, like some washing powder - it is humiliating. My son asks me for something but I cannot buy it for him, so he asks the volunteers instead. He has become a beggar, like a street child, and I cannot stand to see that. I feel like I have lost him to this place.”

Ahmed, 10 years old, from Al-Hasakah, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal Ahmed proudly shows me his school notebook with lines of As, Bs, and Cs. He is learning to write the Latin alphabet and can now spell his name. The children of the camp are starting school this week.  Ahmed left Syria when he was 5 years old and since then, hasn’t lived a stable life enabling him to start school. Ahmed admits he is nervous about going to school, but he wants to go, so that he can be ‘cool’. When reminiscing on life before the refugee camp, he says, “the thing I miss the most about Syria is my bike.”

Ahmed, 10 years old, from Al-Hasakah, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal

Ahmed proudly shows me his school notebook with lines of As, Bs, and Cs. He is learning to write the Latin alphabet and can now spell his name. The children of the camp are starting school this week. 

Ahmed left Syria when he was 5 years old and since then, hasn’t lived a stable life enabling him to start school. Ahmed admits he is nervous about going to school, but he wants to go, so that he can be ‘cool’.

When reminiscing on life before the refugee camp, he says, “the thing I miss the most about Syria is my bike.”

Adam, 30 years old, from Darfur, Sudan / Photo: Shayanne Gal & Story: Untold Stories of Success “I remember when I was young our relations were normal with the Arab tribes. They would come near our house, they were nomads, and moved with the animals every four to six months.” However, once the conflict started, the government armed the Arab tribes and actively fostered ethnic tensions. The Arab militia quickly gained notoriety and became known as “Janjaweed”, meaning in Arabic “Devils on Horseback”. Fearing for his life, Adam’s parents sent him to Khartoum where he spent most of his time steering clear of police raids and hiding in his cousin’s house. With more people being arrested daily, Adam’s cousin advised him to leave Sudan. "I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, just a friend, because if I [went] home they would arrest me.”

Adam, 30 years old, from Darfur, Sudan / Photo: Shayanne Gal & Story: Untold Stories of Success

“I remember when I was young our relations were normal with the Arab tribes. They would come near our house, they were nomads, and moved with the animals every four to six months.” However, once the conflict started, the government armed the Arab tribes and actively fostered ethnic tensions. The Arab militia quickly gained notoriety and became known as “Janjaweed”, meaning in Arabic “Devils on Horseback”.


Fearing for his life, Adam’s parents sent him to Khartoum where he spent most of his time steering clear of police raids and hiding in his cousin’s house. With more people being arrested daily, Adam’s cousin advised him to leave Sudan. "I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, just a friend, because if I [went] home they would arrest me.”

Abeer, 26 years old, from Damascus, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal “There, in Syria, if we stayed, we would die a quick death. But here, we’re still dying, 100 slow deaths every day.” “All Syrian people, we smile, but inside, we feel broken hearts. People ask me, why do you smile all the time? Why do all of the refugees smile? I think we smile because we don’t want to cry. It’s too hard for us. I can’t cry and risk anyone seeing me when I cry.” When asking Abeer if she had a message for the people across the globe reading her story, she told us this: “ارحموا عزيز قوم ذل”, in English: "Please have mercy towards those honorable people who have suffered from nations torn at the hands of sin and disgrace."

Abeer, 26 years old, from Damascus, Syria / Photo: Shayanne Gal

“There, in Syria, if we stayed, we would die a quick death. But here, we’re still dying, 100 slow deaths every day.”

“All Syrian people, we smile, but inside, we feel broken hearts. People ask me, why do you smile all the time? Why do all of the refugees smile? I think we smile because we don’t want to cry. It’s too hard for us. I can’t cry and risk anyone seeing me when I cry.”

When asking Abeer if she had a message for the people across the globe reading her story, she told us this: “ارحموا عزيز قوم ذل”, in English: "Please have mercy towards those honorable people who have suffered from nations torn at the hands of sin and disgrace."

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