Awakening Awareness exhibition

Yhteistä Ymmärrystä – näyttely – Awakening Awareness exhibition

Work of Annika Sohlman

Miekkarimuokattu   annika3Annika faces

Where else can they flee?

From 2-12th April 2012 an international youth exchange in Potsdam, Germany, brought together 25 participants from six different SCI branches to work on the issue of escape and migration of refugees. The project was supported financially by the Youth in Action programme of the EU.

STREET ACTION

A street action was presented in Potsdam by a team of the youth exchange. The aim of the street action was to make the people passing by to think about the problems and attitudes that refugees face.

Getting to the group spirit   Street action -practise

 

Going through together   "Active citizenship" © Heidi Välimäki

 

”Initially I was very interested in the theme because last summer I volunteered in a refugee centre and ever since, I have felt a need for learning more about the situation of refugees. (…) The group I worked with was called ”street action”, where we created a performance with the help of a professional director, and after three days of work we performed it several times on the main square of Potsdam. I have never done any such thing before so I was very excited about it. It proved to be an amazing experience and in my opinion has achieved the desired effect. All in all, I have to say that I am very happy to have had the chance to work with so many enthusiastic people. I feel I have benefited vastly from this experience and I am planning to continue working in on this theme in the future. (..)”

Eszter, Hungary

"Don't see, don't hear, don't speak" © Heidi Välimäki   DSC_1281

© Heidi Välimäki

Reaching © Heidi Välimäki   536521_10150682152989422_949261927_n

 

”For me coming to this Youth Exchange was like a dream coming true. (..) I liked the whole concept of the youth exchange camp. It was wonderful to share information, knowledge and life stories with such a fantastic group. I was amazed that our group spoke 16 different languages and studied so closely to our subject. I learned a great deal about the rights of refugees in other EU countries and new ways to share the information about their situation. (…) ”

Venla, Finland

DSC_1289   545678_10150937537944488_144925383_n

 

street action 5   535272_10150937540849488_585878698_n

© Hanna Laajalahti

unhcr-logo

These following pictures were given to our use by UNHCR. To find more amazing pictures and stories go to www.unhcr.org.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.

In more than six decades, the agency has helped people restart their lives. Today, a staff of more than 7,600 people in over than 125 countries continues to help tens of millions of people.

Putting Our Work into Focus

A picture tells a thousand words – and UNHCR has more than 250,000 of them dating back decades. The agency’s photo library in Geneva is guardian of the world’s largest collection of refugee-related photos covering nearly all of the major displacements of the last 60 years. These images provide a comprehensive portrait of the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and the stateless in all corners of the globe, as well as the work of the thousands of UN staff who have helped them. Many of our best photos are showcased on this website and on the social networking site, Flickr. We offer the use of our photos free to the media.

This family of ten hides their faces becuse they fear being recognized by Syrian officals. The entire family lives in two basement rooms. UNHCR/E.DorfmanThis family of ten hides their faces becuse they fear being recognized by Syrian officals. The entire family lives in two basement rooms.
UNHCR/E.Dorfman
Syrian refugees, for protection reasons, need to protect their identities. Ahmed (left) and his family find a creative way to do this for a portrait in their kitchen in Erbil. UNHCR / B. Sokol / 12 November 2012Syrian refugees, for protection reasons, need to protect their identities. Ahmed (left) and his family find a creative way to do this for a portrait in their kitchen in Erbil.
UNHCR / B. Sokol / 12 November 2012
Wrapped in a blanket provided by UNHCR, Alima sits in the passageway outside her family's apartment. Though cold much of the time, the young Syrian refugee says she is happy to be one of the few children on the sixth floor to have a warm woolly hat. UNHCR/ B. Sokol
Wrapped in a blanket provided by UNHCR, Alima sits in the passageway outside her family’s apartment. Though cold much of the time, the young Syrian refugee says she is happy to be one of the few children on the sixth floor to have a warm woolly hat.
UNHCR/ B. Sokol
Uncertain future for displaced family in eastern Congo camp Newer Older People carrying jerry cans gather around a water outlet in Mugunga III. UNHCR / F. NOY / October 2012
Uncertain future for displaced family in eastern Congo camp. People carrying jerry cans gather around a water outlet in Mugunga III.
UNHCR / F. NOY / October 2012
Nyakabande: A haven in Uganda from the storm in North Kivu 4 Newer Older A Congolese refugee and her sons cook the mushrooms they have picked in the fields surrounding Nyakabande Transit Centre. This will add some variety to their daily diet. UNHCR / Frederic NOY / November 2012
Nyakabande: A haven in Uganda from the storm in North Kivu
A Congolese refugee and her sons cook the mushrooms they have picked in the fields surrounding Nyakabande Transit Centre. This will add some variety to their daily diet.
UNHCR / Frederic NOY / November 2012
Refugees Prepare for Winter in Jordan’s Za'atri Camp 3 3 Newer Older Thousands of new pre-fabricated homes are being installed in Za'atri refugee camp for the most vulnerable refugees. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Refugees Prepare for Winter in Jordan’s Za’atri Camp
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Refugees Prepare for Winter in Jordan’s Za'atri Camp 3 3 Newer Older Thousands of new pre-fabricated homes are being installed in Za'atri refugee camp for the most vulnerable refugees. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Refugees Prepare for Winter in Jordan’s Za’atri Camp. Thousands of new pre-fabricated homes are being installed in Za’atri refugee camp for the most vulnerable refugees.
UNHCR/B. SokolThe most

 

The most important thing: Sudan

More than 105,000 refugees have crossed the border between Sudan’s Blue Nile state and South Sudan’s Upper Nile state since November, 2011. The journey, usually made on foot, winds through treacherous conflict zones and along back roads that are barely passable due to heavy rains. Most flee on a moment’s notice, bringing only what they can carry, and sometimes nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Some arrive ill or injured, and many have gone hungry along the way. Photojournalist Brian Sokol asked several refugees in South Sudan to show him the most important item they brought with them. See his photo essay to find out what they chose.

 

Eight months before this photograph was taken, Taiba, 15, fled her village of Lahmar in Sudan's Blue Nile state. Leaving with nothing but the ragged clothing she was wearing, Taiba, her mother and five brothers embarked on a two-month journey to South Sudan. She regularly went days at a time without eating, wore no shoes, and had nothing to carry water. She stayed alive by scavenging for fruits in the forest and by begging for food and water. During the journey she suffered from diarrhoea and a skin infection which made walking painful. Taiba holds no object, as she made her journey from Blue Nile empty-handed. Disabled due to a case of tetanus that took her left arm four years ago, she is among the most vulnerable people seeking refuge in Maban County. Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Eight months before this photograph was taken, Taiba, 15, fled her village of Lahmar in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. Leaving with nothing but the ragged clothing she was wearing, Taiba, her mother and five brothers embarked on a two-month journey to South Sudan. She regularly went days at a time without eating, wore no shoes, and had nothing to carry water. She stayed alive by scavenging for fruits in the forest and by begging for food and water. During the journey she suffered from diarrhoea and a skin infection which made walking painful. Taiba holds no object, as she made her journey from Blue Nile empty-handed. Disabled due to a case of tetanus that took her left arm four years ago, she is among the most vulnerable people seeking refuge in Maban County. Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Aerial bombardment forced Ahmed, 10, and his family to flee their home in Taga village, in Sudan's Blue Nile state, seven months before this photograph was taken. The most important thing he was able to bring with him is Kako, his pet monkey. Kako and Ahmed made the five-day journey from Taga to the South Sudanese border together in the back of a truck. Ahmed says he can't imagine life without Kako, and that the most difficult thing about leaving Blue Nile was having to leave his family's donkey behind. Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Aerial bombardment forced Ahmed, 10, and his family to flee their home in Taga village, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state, seven months before this photograph was taken. The most important thing he was able to bring with him is Kako, his pet monkey. Kako and Ahmed made the five-day journey from Taga to the South Sudanese border together in the back of a truck. Ahmed says he can’t imagine life without Kako, and that the most difficult thing about leaving Blue Nile was having to leave his family’s donkey behind. Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Several months before this picture was taken, repeated bombing raids forced Dowla, 22, and her six children to flee their village in Sudan's Blue Nile state. The most important object she was able to bring with her is the wooden pole balanced over her shoulder, with which she carried her six children during the 10-day journey from Gabanit to South Sudan. At times, the children were too tired to walk, forcing her to carry two on either side. Doro refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Several months before this picture was taken, repeated bombing raids forced Dowla, 22, and her six children to flee their village in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. The most important object she was able to bring with her is the wooden pole balanced over her shoulder, with which she carried her six children during the 10-day journey from Gabanit to South Sudan. At times, the children were too tired to walk, forcing her to carry two on either side. Doro refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
In September 2011 war came to their village in Bau County, in Sudan's Blue Nile state. For five months Shari, who is 75 years old and blind, and her son, Osman, 40, went from village to village, trying to find safety. At times Shari grew so hungry that she ate the leaves of the lalof tree. Some of the friends and neighbours who accompanied them along the way died of illness or hunger. They reached Jamam in February 2012. The most important thing that Shari was able to bring with her is the stick she holds. " I've had this stick since I went blind six years ago,â she said. âMy son led me along the road with it. Without it, and him, I would be dead now. " Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
In September 2011 war came to their village in Bau County, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. For five months Shari, who is 75 years old and blind, and her son, Osman, 40, went from village to village, trying to find safety. At times Shari grew so hungry that she ate the leaves of the lalof tree. Some of the friends and neighbours who accompanied them along the way died of illness or hunger. They reached Jamam in February 2012. The most important thing that Shari was able to bring with her is the stick she holds. ” I’ve had this stick since I went blind six years ago,â she said. âMy son led me along the road with it. Without it, and him, I would be dead now. ” Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Driven out by war, Al Haj, 27, travelled from his village of Lahmar in Sudan's Blue Nile state to seek refuge in South Sudan. During his journey, he was ill with malaria. The most important thing he was able to bring with him is the whip that he holds. Without it, he says, he wouldn't have been able to keep together his herd of 50 goats, and he would now be destitute. Jamam camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Driven out by war, Al Haj, 27, travelled from his village of Lahmar in Sudan’s Blue Nile state to seek refuge in South Sudan. During his journey, he was ill with malaria. The most important thing he was able to bring with him is the whip that he holds. Without it, he says, he wouldn’t have been able to keep together his herd of 50 goats, and he would now be destitute. Jamam camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Magboola, 20, and her family weathered air raids for several months, but decided it was time to leave their village of Bofe the night that soldiers arrived and opened fire. With her three children, she travelled for 12 days from Bofe to the town of El Fudj, on the South Sudanese border. The most important thing she was able to bring with her is the cooking pot she holds in this photograph. It was small enough she could travel with it, yet big enough to cook sorghum for herself and her three daughters during their journey. Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Magboola, 20, and her family weathered air raids for several months, but decided it was time to leave their village of Bofe the night that soldiers arrived and opened fire. With her three children, she travelled for 12 days from Bofe to the town of El Fudj, on the South Sudanese border. The most important thing she was able to bring with her is the cooking pot she holds in this photograph. It was small enough she could travel with it, yet big enough to cook sorghum for herself and her three daughters during their journey. Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Four months before this photograph was taken, soldiers arrived in 10-year-old Maria's village of Makaja, in Sudan's Blue Nile state. In the middle of the night, they set fire to her house, burning it, and all the food inside, to the ground. The next day she set out, shoeless, on a three-month journey to the South Sudanese border. Along the way she contracted malaria, and at one point went five days without a meal. The most important thing she brought with her is the jerrycan (water container) that she holds in this photograph taken at Jamam camp in Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Four months before this photograph was taken, soldiers arrived in 10-year-old Maria’s village of Makaja, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. In the middle of the night, they set fire to her house, burning it, and all the food inside, to the ground. The next day she set out, shoeless, on a three-month journey to the South Sudanese border. Along the way she contracted malaria, and at one point went five days without a meal. The most important thing she brought with her is the jerrycan (water container) that she holds in this photograph taken at Jamam camp in Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Eighty-five-year-old Torjam Alamin in Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. When war came to Sudan's Blue Nile state, Torjam first fled his village of Ahmar, hoping to find safety in neighbouring Kukur. However, the conflict followed him there, so he and his family left during the night. The most important things that Torjam was able to bring with him were the plastic bottles he holds here. One carried drinking water, the other cooking oil. "All I could carry was this, and an axe. We couldn't bring much, and even had to leave some other old people behind. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Eighty-five-year-old Torjam Alamin in Jamam refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. When war came to Sudan’s Blue Nile state, Torjam first fled his village of Ahmar, hoping to find safety in neighbouring Kukur. However, the conflict followed him there, so he and his family left during the night. The most important things that Torjam was able to bring with him were the plastic bottles he holds here. One carried drinking water, the other cooking oil. ”All I could carry was this, and an axe. We couldn’t bring much, and even had to leave some other old people behind.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Omar Belu Garmut is unsure of his exact age, but believes himself to be between 60 and 70 years old. A farmer from the village of Bofe, he and his family endured aerial bombing raids for several months but decided it was time to leave their home when soldiers came in the night and opened fire. With his two wives and 16 children, he travelled for 12 days from Bofe to the town of El Fudj, on the South Sudanese border. The most important thing Omar was able to bring with him is the axe he holds in this photograph. He used it to cut firewood for cooking and to make small wooden structures where his family could sleep at night, and sometimes to rest for several days at a time, during their journey. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Omar Belu Garmut is unsure of his exact age, but believes himself to be between 60 and 70 years old. A farmer from the village of Bofe, he and his family endured aerial bombing raids for several months but decided it was time to leave their home when soldiers came in the night and opened fire. With his two wives and 16 children, he travelled for 12 days from Bofe to the town of El Fudj, on the South Sudanese border. The most important thing Omar was able to bring with him is the axe he holds in this photograph. He used it to cut firewood for cooking and to make small wooden structures where his family could sleep at night, and sometimes to rest for several days at a time, during their journey.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Aerial bombardment forced Amuna, 30, as well as her husband and four children, to flee their home in Jaw Village, Blue Nile state The most important object that Amuna was able to bring with her is the pan balanced atop her head; she used it to feed her children during the journey from Jaw to the South Sudanese border. Yusuf Batil refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Aerial bombardment forced Amuna, 30, as well as her husband and four children, to flee their home in Jaw Village, Blue Nile state The most important object that Amuna was able to bring with her is the pan balanced atop her head; she used it to feed her children during the journey from Jaw to the South Sudanese border. Yusuf Batil refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Noora, who doesn't know her age, stands inside her makeshift shelter in Doro refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. She and her three children fled their village of Mayak, in Sudan's Blue Nile state, three months earlier, when fighting there killed her husband. The most important object she was able to bring with her is this wooden basket, as it allowed her to carry her one-year-old son, Sabit Idris, atop her head during their four-day journey to South Sudan. Her two-year-old daughter, Hanan, and three-year-old son, Nguma, made the journey by foot. The children are all currently malnourished, and Noora has to leave them for much of each day in order to earn money by fetching and selling water to better-off refugees. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Noora, who doesn’t know her age, stands inside her makeshift shelter in Doro refugee camp, Maban County, South Sudan. She and her three children fled their village of Mayak, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state, three months earlier, when fighting there killed her husband. The most important object she was able to bring with her is this wooden basket, as it allowed her to carry her one-year-old son, Sabit Idris, atop her head during their four-day journey to South Sudan. Her two-year-old daughter, Hanan, and three-year-old son, Nguma, made the journey by foot. The children are all currently malnourished, and Noora has to leave them for much of each day in order to earn money by fetching and selling water to better-off refugees.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Asha Babur, 28, poses for a portrait in Jamam refugee camp. In September 2011 war came to her village of Soda, in Sudan's Blue Nile state. She and her family weathered aerial bombing raids for months, but decided it was time to flee when gun battles erupted in their village. The most important things she was able to bring with her are the bracelets, or kubasha, that she holds. "I couldn't carry anything with me,â Asha said. âI just ran with what I was wearing. Everything I have now I bought in Jamam, except these bracelets, which are the only beautiful things I have from home." UNHCR/B. Sokol
Asha Babur, 28, poses for a portrait in Jamam refugee camp. In September 2011 war came to her village of Soda, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state. She and her family weathered aerial bombing raids for months, but decided it was time to flee when gun battles erupted in their village. The most important things she was able to bring with her are the bracelets, or kubasha, that she holds. ”I couldn’t carry anything with me,â Asha said. âI just ran with what I was wearing. Everything I have now I bought in Jamam, except these bracelets, which are the only beautiful things I have from home.”
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Hasan, who is unsure of his age but imagines himself to be between 60 and 70 years old, poses for a portrait in Jamam refugee camp in Maban County, South Sudan. Fighting forced Hasan and his family to flee their home in Maganza Village, in Sudan's Blue Nile state The most important object he was able to bring with him is the empty wallet he holds. Though he is now destitute, he left Maganza with enough money to buy food for his family during their 25-day journey to the South Sudanese border. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Hasan, who is unsure of his age but imagines himself to be between 60 and 70 years old, poses for a portrait in Jamam refugee camp in Maban County, South Sudan. Fighting forced Hasan and his family to flee their home in Maganza Village, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state The most important object he was able to bring with him is the empty wallet he holds. Though he is now destitute, he left Maganza with enough money to buy food for his family during their 25-day journey to the South Sudanese border.
UNHCR/B. Sokol

 

 

The important thing: Syria

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project by photographer Brian Sokol that asks refugees from different parts of the world, ”What is the most important thing you brought from home?” The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets – things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

 

Ahmed*, 70, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 14 November 2012. Ahmed fled Syria with his wife and eight of their nine children approximately four months before this photograph was taken, when their family home in Damascus was destroyed in an attack. Together with four other families – 50 people in all – they escaped in the back of an open-topped truck after covering themselves with plastic sheeting. The vehicle set out at midnight and Ahmed says everyone aboard was terrified, fearing that they would not reach safety. Many hours later they arrived in Derik City, where they spent 20 days before continuing on to the Iraqi border. Ahmed's one son who remained behind was killed in late October 2012. Following an explosion, he ran into the street to help an injured friend, only to be killed in a second blast. The most important thing Ahmed was able to bring with him is the cane he holds in this photograph. Without it, he says, he would not have made the two-hour crossing on foot to the Iraqi border. "The only other thing I have left is this finger," he said. "All I want now is for my family to find a place where they can be safe and stay there forever. Never should we need to flee again." UNHCR/B. Sokol
Ahmed*, 70, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 14 November 2012. Ahmed fled Syria with his wife and eight of their nine children approximately four months before this photograph was taken, when their family home in Damascus was destroyed in an attack. Together with four other families – 50 people in all – they escaped in the back of an open-topped truck after covering themselves with plastic sheeting. The vehicle set out at midnight and Ahmed says everyone aboard was terrified, fearing that they would not reach safety. Many hours later they arrived in Derik City, where they spent 20 days before continuing on to the Iraqi border. Ahmed’s one son who remained behind was killed in late October 2012. Following an explosion, he ran into the street to help an injured friend, only to be killed in a second blast.
The most important thing Ahmed was able to bring with him is the cane he holds in this photograph. Without it, he says, he would not have made the two-hour crossing on foot to the Iraqi border. ”The only other thing I have left is this finger,” he said. ”All I want now is for my family to find a place where they can be safe and stay there forever. Never should we need to flee again.”
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Salma*, whose age is somewhere between 90 and 107 according to family members, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 15 December 2012. Salma fled her home in Qamishly City, Syria, at the beginning of December when the apartments surrounding hers were destroyed, arriving in Domiz ten days before this photograph was taken. She escaped with her three sons and their families, leaving home in the middle of the night in a rented car. Crossing the border was a very difficult process for her, and the journey on foot which ordinarily takes two hours – lasted the better part of a day, throughout which she was terrified, unable to run if needed. Salma says, "Whether I miss my home or not doesn't matter. It's gone now, and I can't go back." The most important thing that she was able to bring with her is the ring she displays in this photograph. When she was ten years old, her mother gave it to her from her death bed, saying, "Keep this ring and remember me." She intends to wear the ring to her grave. "It's not valuable – not silver, or gold – just an old ring. But it's all that I have left." UNHCR/B. Sokol
Salma*, whose age is somewhere between 90 and 107 according to family members, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 15 December 2012. Salma fled her home in Qamishly City, Syria, at the beginning of December when the apartments surrounding hers were destroyed, arriving in Domiz ten days before this photograph was taken. She escaped with her three sons and their families, leaving home in the middle of the night in a rented car. Crossing the border was a very difficult process for her, and the journey on foot which ordinarily takes two hours – lasted the better part of a day, throughout which she was terrified, unable to run if needed. Salma says, ”Whether I miss my home or not doesn’t matter. It’s gone now, and I can’t go back.”
The most important thing that she was able to bring with her is the ring she displays in this photograph. When she was ten years old, her mother gave it to her from her death bed, saying, ”Keep this ring and remember me.” She intends to wear the ring to her grave. ”It’s not valuable – not silver, or gold – just an old ring. But it’s all that I have left.”
UNHCR/B. Sokol
A doctor, Waleed*, 37, poses for a portrait in the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic where he works in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 16 November 2012. Waleed fled Syria with his wife and their newborn baby in early 2012. “Twenty days after my wife gave birth we left the country. It took us two hours to reach the border. We stayed in a village close to the Syrian/Iraqi border for two nights before finding a smuggler. We paid 1100 USD to cross the border. I left the country for the sake of my family. I don’t want to see my children grow up as orphans.” The most important thing that Waleed was able to bring with him is the photograph of his wife that he holds here. Although they are still together, he says, "This is important because she gave me this photo back home before we were married, during the time when we were dating. It always brings me great memories and reminds me of my happiest time back home in Syria.” UNHCR/B. Sokol
A doctor, Waleed*, 37, poses for a portrait in the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic where he works in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 16 November 2012. Waleed fled Syria with his wife and their newborn baby in early 2012. “Twenty days after my wife gave birth we left the country. It took us two hours to reach the border. We stayed in a village close to the Syrian/Iraqi border for two nights before finding a smuggler. We paid 1100 USD to cross the border. I left the country for the sake of my family. I don’t want to see my children grow up as orphans.”
The most important thing that Waleed was able to bring with him is the photograph of his wife that he holds here. Although they are still together, he says, ”This is important because she gave me this photo back home before we were married, during the time when we were dating. It always brings me great memories and reminds me of my happiest time back home in Syria.”
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Omar*, 37, poses for a portrait inside his tent in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 16 November 2012. Omar decided it was time to flee his home in the Syrian capital of Damascus the night that his neighbours were killed. "They came into their home, whoever they were, and savagely cut my neighbour and his two sons. They dragged the bodies into the street, where we found them in the morning." The next day he used the majority of his savings to hire a truck to flee with his wife and his two sons. The most important thing that Omar was able to bring with him is the instrument he holds in this photograph. It is called a "buzuq" and he says that "playing it fills me with a sense of nostalgia and reminds me of my homeland. For a short time, it gives me some relief from my sorrows." UNHCR/B. Sokol
Omar*, 37, poses for a portrait inside his tent in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 16 November 2012. Omar decided it was time to flee his home in the Syrian capital of Damascus the night that his neighbours were killed. ”They came into their home, whoever they were, and savagely cut my neighbour and his two sons. They dragged the bodies into the street, where we found them in the morning.” The next day he used the majority of his savings to hire a truck to flee with his wife and his two sons.
The most important thing that Omar was able to bring with him is the instrument he holds in this photograph. It is called a ”buzuq” and he says that ”playing it fills me with a sense of nostalgia and reminds me of my homeland. For a short time, it gives me some relief from my sorrows.”
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Alia*, 24, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 15 November 2012. Alia was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home four months before this photograph was taken. As the fighting drew closer, she recalls, "It was terrifying because I'm not able to help myself." Confined to a wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. "At the beginning of the fighting, my family decided to stay because we thought it would be over soon. But as it went on, I was scared that they might run away and leave me at home alone." Although she never cared for television, Alia began to follow the news programs closely as the fighting intensified, because it helped her make sense of the things she heard, but couldn't see, going on around her. "Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried, scared because I had to call my family even to know what was happening." Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her "is my soul, nothing more – nothing material." When asked about her wheelchair, she seemed surprised, saying that she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. "I am happy. I am happy to be safe, to be here with my family," she says. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Alia*, 24, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 15 November 2012. Alia was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home four months before this photograph was taken. As the fighting drew closer, she recalls, ”It was terrifying because I’m not able to help myself.” Confined to a wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. ”At the beginning of the fighting, my family decided to stay because we thought it would be over soon. But as it went on, I was scared that they might run away and leave me at home alone.” Although she never cared for television, Alia began to follow the news programs closely as the fighting intensified, because it helped her make sense of the things she heard, but couldn’t see, going on around her. ”Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried, scared because I had to call my family even to know what was happening.”
Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her ”is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.” When asked about her wheelchair, she seemed surprised, saying that she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. ”I am happy. I am happy to be safe, to be here with my family,” she says.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
May*, 8, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 16 November 2012. She and her family arrived in Domiz about one month before this photograph was taken, having fled their home in Damascus, the Syrian capital. They escaped on a bus at night, and May recalls crying for hours as they left the city behind. After traveling more than 800 kilometres, they made the final crossing into Iraq on foot. May wept again as they followed a rough trail in the cold, while her mother carried her two-year-old baby brother. Since arriving in Domiz, she has had recurring nightmares in which her father is violently killed. She is now attending school, and says she finally feels safe. May hopes to be a photographer when she grows up. "I want to take pictures of happy children, because they are innocent, and my pictures will make them even more happy," she says. The most important thing she was able to bring with her when she left home is the set of bracelets she wears in this photograph. "The bracelets aren't my favourite things," she says; "my doll Nancy is." May's aunt gave her the doll on her sixth birthday. "She reminded me of that day, the cake I had, and how safe I felt then when my whole family was together." The night they fled Damascus, May's mother put Nancy on her bed where she wouldn't be forgotten. But in the rush that ensued, Nancy was somehow left behind – and May says these bracelets are the next-best thing to having her in Iraq. UNHCR/B. Sokol
May*, 8, poses for a portrait in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 16 November 2012. She and her family arrived in Domiz about one month before this photograph was taken, having fled their home in Damascus, the Syrian capital. They escaped on a bus at night, and May recalls crying for hours as they left the city behind. After traveling more than 800 kilometres, they made the final crossing into Iraq on foot. May wept again as they followed a rough trail in the cold, while her mother carried her two-year-old baby brother. Since arriving in Domiz, she has had recurring nightmares in which her father is violently killed. She is now attending school, and says she finally feels safe. May hopes to be a photographer when she grows up. ”I want to take pictures of happy children, because they are innocent, and my pictures will make them even more happy,” she says.
The most important thing she was able to bring with her when she left home is the set of bracelets she wears in this photograph. ”The bracelets aren’t my favourite things,” she says; ”my doll Nancy is.” May’s aunt gave her the doll on her sixth birthday. ”She reminded me of that day, the cake I had, and how safe I felt then when my whole family was together.” The night they fled Damascus, May’s mother put Nancy on her bed where she wouldn’t be forgotten. But in the rush that ensued, Nancy was somehow left behind – and May says these bracelets are the next-best thing to having her in Iraq.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Leila*, 9, poses for a portrait in the urban structure where she and her family are taking shelter in Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, on 17 November 2012. Together with her four sisters, mother, father and grandmother, Leila arrived in Erbil five days before this photograph was taken, after fleeing their home in Deir Alzur, Syria. Her family is one of four living in an uninsulated, partially-constructed home; there are about 30 people sharing the cold, draughty space. Leila recalls explosions all around them for days, but the family finally decided to leave Deir Alzur when their neighbours' house was hit, killing everyone inside. The most terrifying thing about the months before they fled, she says, "was the voice of the tanks. It was even more scary than the sound of planes, because I felt like the tanks were coming for me." In the background throughout the interview with Leila, a television channel from Deir Alzur displayed images of incredibly graphic violence and destruction. When asked what she feels when seeing those images again and again, she replied, "Watching the TV makes me remember Syria and what I saw there. It makes me feel sorry and sad in my heart – but I want to keep it on." The most important thing Leila was able to bring with her are the jeans she holds in this photograph. "I went shopping with my parents one day and looked for hours without finding anything I liked. But when I saw these, I knew instantly that these were perfect because they have a flower on them, and I love flowers." She has only worn the jeans three times, all in Syria – twice to wedding parties, and once when she went to visit her grandfather. She says she won't wear them again until she attends another wedding, and she hopes it, too, will be in Syria. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Leila*, 9, poses for a portrait in the urban structure where she and her family are taking shelter in Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, on 17 November 2012. Together with her four sisters, mother, father and grandmother, Leila arrived in Erbil five days before this photograph was taken, after fleeing their home in Deir Alzur, Syria. Her family is one of four living in an uninsulated, partially-constructed home; there are about 30 people sharing the cold, draughty space. Leila recalls explosions all around them for days, but the family finally decided to leave Deir Alzur when their neighbours’ house was hit, killing everyone inside. The most terrifying thing about the months before they fled, she says, ”was the voice of the tanks. It was even more scary than the sound of planes, because I felt like the tanks were coming for me.”
In the background throughout the interview with Leila, a television channel from Deir Alzur displayed images of incredibly graphic violence and destruction. When asked what she feels when seeing those images again and again, she replied, ”Watching the TV makes me remember Syria and what I saw there. It makes me feel sorry and sad in my heart – but I want to keep it on.”
The most important thing Leila was able to bring with her are the jeans she holds in this photograph. ”I went shopping with my parents one day and looked for hours without finding anything I liked. But when I saw these, I knew instantly that these were perfect because they have a flower on them, and I love flowers.” She has only worn the jeans three times, all in Syria – twice to wedding parties, and once when she went to visit her grandfather. She says she won’t wear them again until she attends another wedding, and she hopes it, too, will be in Syria.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Iman*, 25, poses for a portrait with her son Ahmed, 2, and daughter Aishia, 1, in Nizip refugee camp, Turkey, on 4 December 2012. They arrived in Nizip ten weeks before this photograph was taken, after fleeing their home in Aleppo, Syria. After weathering months of conflict, Iman decided it was time to flee when she heard accounts of sexual harassment against women in Aleppo. One day combatants came through her neighbourhood, going door to door in search of men. When they found none, they intimidated the women. The next day, 36 women and children left Aleppo and fled to Idlib. Shortly after they arrived, the area came under a ferocious attack. In an instant, Iman lost five family members, and the home where they were taking shelter was destroyed. Fifteen houses in the neighbourhood were destroyed that day, and the survivors set out again. As they fled Idlib, the children saw blood in the streets and clouds of smoke filling the sky. Iman and her children travelled through the streets of Idlib for hours. She held Aishia tightly with one arm, carried a small bag of valuables on her back, and led Ahmed with her free hand, periodically taking shelter under trees and hiding behind vehicles. When they reached the city’s edge, they hired a car and fled to the border, crossing as quickly as they could. The most important thing Iman was able to bring with her is the Koran she holds in this photograph. She says that religion is the most important aspect of her life, and that the Koran inspires a sense of protection. "As long as I have it with me, I'm connected to God," she says. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Iman*, 25, poses for a portrait with her son Ahmed, 2, and daughter Aishia, 1, in Nizip refugee camp, Turkey, on 4 December 2012. They arrived in Nizip ten weeks before this photograph was taken, after fleeing their home in Aleppo, Syria. After weathering months of conflict, Iman decided it was time to flee when she heard accounts of sexual harassment against women in Aleppo. One day combatants came through her neighbourhood, going door to door in search of men. When they found none, they intimidated the women. The next day, 36 women and children left Aleppo and fled to Idlib. Shortly after they arrived, the area came under a ferocious attack. In an instant, Iman lost five family members, and the home where they were taking shelter was destroyed. Fifteen houses in the neighbourhood were destroyed that day, and the survivors set out again. As they fled Idlib, the children saw blood in the streets and clouds of smoke filling the sky.
Iman and her children travelled through the streets of Idlib for hours. She held Aishia tightly with one arm, carried a small bag of valuables on her back, and led Ahmed with her free hand, periodically taking shelter under trees and hiding behind vehicles. When they reached the city’s edge, they hired a car and fled to the border, crossing as quickly as they could.
The most important thing Iman was able to bring with her is the Koran she holds in this photograph. She says that religion is the most important aspect of her life, and that the Koran inspires a sense of protection. ”As long as I have it with me, I’m connected to God,” she says.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Ayman*, 82, (left) and his wife Yasmine*, 67, pose for a portrait in Nizip refugee camp, Turkey, on 4 December 2012. They fled their home in a rural area near Aleppo in August 2012 after their 70-year-old neighbour and his son, a shepherd, were brutally killed. Their home stands on 10,000 square meters of land covered with olive trees, grapes, nuts and fruits. Breaking into tears, Ayman described how nearby farms came under attack and homes were looted them and set on fire. "It is unbelievable that any human being can do this to another," he said. "There is no place that compares to home," Ayman added. "But on the day we crossed the border, 19 people from our village were killed. Here, at least we feel safe. At least we haven't heard the noise of shelling for two months now. At home we lived like kings and queens. Now, we are refugees. What I miss most is my farm. I miss the olive trees. I don't even know if my house is still standing." The most important thing Ayman was able to bring with him from Syria is his wife. "She's the best woman that I've met in my life," he says. "Even if I were to go back 55 years, I would choose you again." UNHCR/B. Sokol
Ayman*, 82, (left) and his wife Yasmine*, 67, pose for a portrait in Nizip refugee camp, Turkey, on 4 December 2012. They fled their home in a rural area near Aleppo in August 2012 after their 70-year-old neighbour and his son, a shepherd, were brutally killed. Their home stands on 10,000 square meters of land covered with olive trees, grapes, nuts and fruits. Breaking into tears, Ayman described how nearby farms came under attack and homes were looted them and set on fire. ”It is unbelievable that any human being can do this to another,” he said.
”There is no place that compares to home,” Ayman added. ”But on the day we crossed the border, 19 people from our village were killed. Here, at least we feel safe. At least we haven’t heard the noise of shelling for two months now. At home we lived like kings and queens. Now, we are refugees. What I miss most is my farm. I miss the olive trees. I don’t even know if my house is still standing.”
The most important thing Ayman was able to bring with him from Syria is his wife. ”She’s the best woman that I’ve met in my life,” he says. ”Even if I were to go back 55 years, I would choose you again.”
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Tamara*, 20, poses for a portrait in Adiyaman refugee camp in Turkey on 5 December 2012. After Tamara's home in Idlib was partially destroyed in September, the family decided their best chance of safety was to reach the Syrian-Turkish border. "When we left our house, we felt the sky was raining bullets," Tamara recalled. "We were moving from one shelter to another in order to protect ourselves." "We left Idlib three months ago," she continued. "We spent 40 days on the Syrian side of the border with very little water and no electricity. The hygiene there was very poor. I got food poisoning and was sick for a week." The most important thing she was able to bring with her is her diploma, which she holds in this photograph. With it she will be able to continue her education in Turkey. Through a generous education program, the government will allow qualified Syrian refugees to attend Turkish universities beginning in the March semester. Ramazan Kurkud, head of education programs at Adiyaman, said 70 B.A candidates and 10 M.A candidates from the camp have so far submitted applications to study at Turkish universities. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Tamara*, 20, poses for a portrait in Adiyaman refugee camp in Turkey on 5 December 2012. After Tamara’s home in Idlib was partially destroyed in September, the family decided their best chance of safety was to reach the Syrian-Turkish border. ”When we left our house, we felt the sky was raining bullets,” Tamara recalled. ”We were moving from one shelter to another in order to protect ourselves.”
”We left Idlib three months ago,” she continued. ”We spent 40 days on the Syrian side of the border with very little water and no electricity. The hygiene there was very poor. I got food poisoning and was sick for a week.”
The most important thing she was able to bring with her is her diploma, which she holds in this photograph. With it she will be able to continue her education in Turkey. Through a generous education program, the government will allow qualified Syrian refugees to attend Turkish universities beginning in the March semester. Ramazan Kurkud, head of education programs at Adiyaman, said 70 B.A candidates and 10 M.A candidates from the camp have so far submitted applications to study at Turkish universities.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Abdul* poses for a portrait in an urban structure in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon on 12 December 2012. He and his family fled their apartment in the Syrian capital of Damascus shortly after his wife was wounded in the crossfire between armed groups. At the time this photograph was taken several months later, they and nearly a dozen other family members were living in a single concrete room provided by a Lebanese widow. Now the extended family shares two structures, as UNHCR and the Danish Refugee Council have constructed a plywood shelter for Abdul, his wife, their daughter and her children to share. The most important thing Abdul was able to bring from Syria when he fled are the keys to his home, which he holds in this photograph. Although he doesn't know if the family's apartment is still standing, he dreams every day of returning home. "God willing, I will see you this time next year in Damascus," he told the photographer after this portrait was taken. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Abdul* poses for a portrait in an urban structure in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon on 12 December 2012. He and his family fled their apartment in the Syrian capital of Damascus shortly after his wife was wounded in the crossfire between armed groups. At the time this photograph was taken several months later, they and nearly a dozen other family members were living in a single concrete room provided by a Lebanese widow. Now the extended family shares two structures, as UNHCR and the Danish Refugee Council have constructed a plywood shelter for Abdul, his wife, their daughter and her children to share.
The most important thing Abdul was able to bring from Syria when he fled are the keys to his home, which he holds in this photograph. Although he doesn’t know if the family’s apartment is still standing, he dreams every day of returning home. ”God willing, I will see you this time next year in Damascus,” he told the photographer after this portrait was taken.
UNHCR/B. Sokol
Yusuf* poses for a portrait in an urban structure in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon on 12 December 2012. He and his family fled their home in Damascus, the Syrian capital, several months before this photograph was taken. The most important thing Yusuf was able to bring when he fled Syria is the mobile phone he holds in this photograph. "With this, I'm able to call my father. We're close enough to Syria here that I can catch a signal from the Syrian towers sometimes, and then it is a local call to call home from Lebanon." The phone also holds photographs of family members who are still in Syria, which he is able to keep with him at all times. UNHCR/B. Sokol.
Yusuf* poses for a portrait in an urban structure in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon on 12 December 2012. He and his family fled their home in Damascus, the Syrian capital, several months before this photograph was taken.
The most important thing Yusuf was able to bring when he fled Syria is the mobile phone he holds in this photograph. ”With this, I’m able to call my father. We’re close enough to Syria here that I can catch a signal from the Syrian towers sometimes, and then it is a local call to call home from Lebanon.” The phone also holds photographs of family members who are still in Syria, which he is able to keep with him at all times.
UNHCR/B. Sokol.
Mohamed*, 43, poses for a portrait next to his tent in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 13 November 2012. Mohamed, the imam of the camp’s only mosque, fled his home in the Hassakeh Governorate of Syria and arrived in Iraq on 26 September 2012. After being warned that armed elements were searching for him, Mohamed got into a car with his wife and their six children and drove toward the Iraqi border. The family walked for two hours before crossing safely into Iraq and making their way to Domiz, where they were registered as refugees. The most important thing that Mohamed was able to bring with him is the Koran that he holds in this photograph. As an imam, he says that religion is the most important aspect of his life. "I love my religion, but I am not so strict in my views. I want to teach the importance of brotherhood and equality between all religions," he says. UNHCR/B. Sokol
Mohamed*, 43, poses for a portrait next to his tent in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 13 November 2012. Mohamed, the imam of the camp’s only mosque, fled his home in the Hassakeh Governorate of Syria and arrived in Iraq on 26 September 2012. After being warned that armed elements were searching for him, Mohamed got into a car with his wife and their six children and drove toward the Iraqi border. The family walked for two hours before crossing safely into Iraq and making their way to Domiz, where they were registered as refugees.
The most important thing that Mohamed was able to bring with him is the Koran that he holds in this photograph. As an imam, he says that religion is the most important aspect of his life. ”I love my religion, but I am not so strict in my views. I want to teach the importance of brotherhood and equality between all religions,” he says.
UNHCR/B. Sokol

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