Fleeing Syria for their lives
Picture 1: Abdul and his family fled from their apartment in Syria after his wife was shot in the street during cross-fire between armed groups. The most important thing he was able to bring from Syria are the keys to his home that he holds in this photograph. Though he doesn’t know whether the family’s apartment is still standing, he dreams every day of returning home.
Picture 2: Tamara’s home in Syria was partially destroyed in September, and 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.” The most important thing that she was able to bring with her is her diploma. With it she will be able to continue her education in Turkey.
Picture 3: Ahmed, 82, and his wife Fatima, 67, fled from their home in August 2012 after their neighbour was killed for asking soldiers why they had executed his son. The most important thing Ahmed 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.”
Picture 4: Iman, 25, decided to flee with her son and daughter when she heard accounts of sexual harassment against women in her home city in Syria. The most important thing Iman was able to bring with her is the Koran that she holds here. She says religion is the most important aspect of her life, and that the Koran gives her a sense of protection. “As long as I have it with me, I’m connected to God,” she says.
Picture 5: Marwa, 8, and her family arrived in a refugee camp in Iraq by foot. She says she wept as she made the journey through the cold, over a rough trail, as her mother carried her and her baby brother. She is now attending school and says that she finally feels safe. The most important thing she was able to bring with her when she left are the bracelets she displays in this photograph.
Picture 6: Salma, 24, and her family were forced to flee their home last summer. Confined to a wheelchair and blind in both eyes, she says she was terrified by what was happening around her. Salma 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.
Picture 7: Abdulaziz, 37, fled his home in Syria the night his neighbors were killed. 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 he was able to bring with him is the instrument he holds here. It is called a buzuq and he says that “playing it fills me with a sense of nostalgia and reminds me of my homeland”.
Picture 8: Hisham, 37, and his family fled Syria early in 2012, paying a smuggler $1,100 to take them across the border. The most important thing Hisham was able to bring with him is the photograph of his wife that he holds here. “This is important,” he says, “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.”
Picture 9: Neda, approximately 100 years old (age between 90 and 107 according to family members), fled from her home last December when the apartments surrounding hers were destroyed. Crossing the border into Iraq was a very difficult process for her, and the journey on foot lasted the better part of a day. The most important thing she was able to bring with her is the ring that she displays here. When she was ten years old, her mother gave it to her from her death bed, saying, “Keep this ring and remember me.”
Picture 10: Mohammed, 70, and his family fled Syria when their family home in Damascus was destroyed by a bomb. They escaped in the back of a truck after covering themselves with plastic sheeting. The most important thing Mohammed was able to bring with him is the cane that he holds in this photograph. He says that without it, he wouldn’t have been able to make the two-hour crossing on foot to the Iraqi border.