The Paris Marathon; Completed!

13 Apr

On Sunday 6th April, I ran the Paris Marathon to raise funds for Syria, and I actually finished!!

WWW.TRUTHPEACELOVE.ORG

Running the Paris Marathon!

I didn’t do any training whatsoever, it is impossible with my career to do so, and to be quite frank; I don’t like exercise, it doesn’t interest me. In all honestly, I probably have one of the unhealthiest diets, one of cake, chocolate and all that good stuff in abundance daily as most who know me well know. The only time you could catch me running would be if the patisserie was about to close and I had no sweet things left in my home. I don’t like gyms, and am no type of fitness person.

Ok, so it took me around 7.50hrs to finish, I was last, and I did injury my muscles through the marathon, and I cried like I haven’t in a long time to the end with a lot of bad words muttered between that, but I kept going and finished! I could have kept going too if my legs allowed me, from the waist up I felt great and could have kept going for days! Who would have thought it!

It also helps that I know I have an Angel above I hold on to daily guiding me and have been guided in the past year since they left this earth.

I certainly am not advising anyone to run a marathon without training, but, in having googled extensively in a panic the day before the marathon terms like ‘how to run a marathon without training’, and only feeling more scared, I felt it good to have something positive out there to say you can do it! We can do anything when we put our hearts into it. I even felt ready to stop at just 4 miles, I felt so drained and my legs were so shaky and sore already, then when I tore my muscles; well, that took it to a heightened level of pain.

Yasmin Al Tellawy - Paris Marathon

Hobbling in tears in a lot of pain through the finish!

I had a lot on my mind, personal matters that stay with me and keep me thinking & aspiring for more, and mostly Syria, thinking of all the families suffering, who need assistance, and the endless stories and situations I have witnessed there over the years.

I meet so many families that will forever stay with me, families who struggled to make it to the borders for safety, days of traveling by foot with children, no food or even water, and had to keep going to reach safety. In my low moments walking through the marathon feeling I could not go on with the pain in my legs, I felt stupid complaining & would have felt even more stupid to have stopped. There I am choosing to do this, something of which is a joy to most, an achievement, and there are people in Syria having to take a journey far greater than the 42km of the marathon just to get to safety; just to survive. Naturally that kept me going, that was the inspiration.

A couple of weeks ago I was leaving another trip in Syria and had some minor issues where I was crossing, a couple of Syrian men had come to help me out, no reasons but to just be kind… it turned out, one of the men had just traveled for 9 days, through extreme circumstances for survival and there he was wanting to help a complete stranger for no reasons at all but out of care and wanting to help one another. I asked him why with all he has going on, losing everything in Homs, the pain he was in from his troublesome journey through the country would he stop to help a complete stranger, and he just said why not, this is what we do in life. It was that simple to him and no big deal, yet a very big deal to me. This is the beauty of the true people of Syria; this is who the real people of the country are, and yet another reason of why I keep doing my work there.

I swore I would complete the marathon if it killed me, if I done so crawling, and I endeavor to be a person who certainly does all to stand by my word.

Tears of pain mixed with joy completing the Paris Marathon!

Tears of pain mixed with joy completing the Paris Marathon!

We raised $4000 for Syrians, enabling more people to get the help they need. Every little part helps, and every single penny can go far in making a difference.
I am still so overwhelmed, shocked and surprised by the vast amount of support I had. It is just unbelievable. Every soul who took their time to care, to donate to Syria to add up to this figure, everyone who took so much time across social media of which I know I have not thanked personally yet as there are just so many, it was all possible with you guys.

I am so touched, and I cannot express just how much I mean that. To read through the messages, tweets, emails as I done the marathon each time I checked my phone was just incredible and kept me smiling to continue, what amazing support!

I have been so blessed for getting to work with the people of Syria, sadly I just wish it were under a lifestyle they deserve and not this tragedy, but I am so blessed to have been able to connect with people across the world, people who care, who have been my support, who really have hearts larger than imaginable to do all to help for no reason other than a care for humanity. It is just beautiful, and I can honestly say, I have never felt so happy in my life because of all this.

Many wanted me to pull out due to my bad knee and back problems, & mostly the lack of exercise and having no training at all. It just shows what we can accomplish is we truly put our hearts into it; we can achieve anything we want when we really try.

Recovery!

Recovery day after the marathon!

I couldn’t walk the next day, but the day after, I was back on my feet, in pain and walking rather awkwardly little by little, but it was so worth it!

The next day was full of cold packs, creams, gels and anything you can think off to aid in the pain & recovery as I had to be on a flight the next day!

I want to also apologise to people who I have not written back to personally, things are just very busy at times, I have 2 careers that are very separate to manage, the media industry and running the NGO, things just get hectic and it is nothing personal at all, I do eventually get round to things personal, I hope you can understand this and know the support is so greatly appreciated and inspiring to me.

While many felt it was crazy for me to attempt the Paris Marathon, I can tell you now, I plan on doing something a lot crazier next year, that being something called Marathon Des Sables… www.marathondessables.co.uk – How hard can it be, really!? 156 miles across the Sahara… piece of cake! Of course, again it will be to raise funds for Syrians in need.

Thank you for the support from near and far, thank you for being in my life, and I hope you guys know just how thankful I am to you, those who take so much effort for humanity, and took so much effort over the marathon fundraiser… You inspire me to be a better person.

Thank you from all my heart & soul to those I have met worldwide now through my work, through our interests, through Syria. Thank you to my amazing friends I am so lucky to have across the globe!

We really can make a difference to the lives of Syrians, we can really all help at least one family and that is what life is all about. The organisation I started is small, but is doing effective work, many families are the assistance they need whether it is short-term or long-term, many children are back into education and women are recovering from sexual crimes. We can all do something for humanity, I feel many people just talk and don’t take action because they feel how can you help, you can’t give a lot of money, you don’t know how you can help, so many thoughts, but the truth is everyone can help, everyone can make a difference, and you can, I ask you to please continue to reach out to Syria, it is the worst crisis in our world now and the humanitarian catastrophe is absolutely mind-boggling. Sadly, I don’t have the answers to ending war in our world, but I do know how we can help for humanity, and that is something we can all do.

The Truth Peace & Love FoundationThe Truth Peace & Love Foundation is working hard on setting up more projects and in need of expanding the current ones, along with needing to provide further assistance back into Syria, areas that they can get access to, but the funds are needed to help these people. Please continue to help if you can, please spread the word. www.truthpeacelove.org

Thank you again to everyone for getting me through the Paris Marathon, for all the support always, I am looking forward to the next challenge, and I shall even be more crazy and volunteer myself to any challenges you may have in mind to raise money for the benefit of humanity for Syria!

With Peace & Love,

Yasmin x

Paris Marathon for Syria!

2 Apr

This Sunday (6th April 2014), I will be running the Paris Marathon. I am running it to raise funds for the people of Syria, whom need the worlds support to get through this crisis.

I have recently left yet another trip to Syria, yet another one of much heartache, great distress, further problems, severe hunger, lack of health care & medical facilities, the list is endless. If I am not in Syria then I am in a border region where millions of refugees now reside; struggling for survival.

Yasmin Al Tellawy - Syria

Getting my equipment stolen in Syria by this cute little one! Photo credit: Thanks to Minka Nijhuis

I have worked in Syria for over 2 years now, if not in Syria, then in the neighbouring border regions with the Syrian communities. I have witnessed tragedy that I never thought could exist in our world, I have watched scenes that I would never wish upon a soul to see. I have encountered many families, many children who I grew close with in this war after they took me in on my travels inside, offering me all the love a person could dream off and more; many have since passed on.
I have countless stories and experiences of overwhelming pain that families have & are suffering through in Syria.
I could rhyme off a million and more tragic tales from Syria, as can every soul living in the war, and every soul who has spent a great deal of time within the war. I could share heart wrenching images and footage, but I choose not to.

Instead I will tell you of the good within this crisis. I have been blessed with love I never could have imagined existed in our world.  I have been given kindness that is truly indescribable within Syria, from families who have nothing, yet still reach out and want to give to me, want to care for me when I am in their company.
I have seen strength that has inspired me, warmth that has inspired me to be a better person and do more for our world.
That love & kindness inspired me to set up The Truth Peace & Love Foundation. That love and kindness also gave me the strength to deal with many personal challenges in recent years.

Yasmin Al Tellawy

The front lines of SalahAlDin, Aleppo, Syria

Every time I am in Syria I sit in awe as the few families left in some areas in their homes that are ruins, without electricity, heating, food with grief in their hearts somehow reach out to me and want to care for me, a stranger, and one who wants to hear their stories of tragedy they are experiencing. They open their doors with welcome arms and give me what they can, and what safety they can offer to me when undercover in such dangerous situations.
It all may sounds so simple to you reading this, but it is this love that pushes me forward, it is that love that has made me sign up to do something rather silly like the Paris Marathon this Sunday.

YasminAlTellawyKids

This little girl is full of so much love & too many cuddles! A refugee now from Aleppo, living in Kilis. Photo credits: Max Aderman / Larissa Neick

The Truth Peace & Love Foundation has assisted so many families now, individual cases, and over 300 victims of rape, sexual assault & other sexual related crimes and many more cases. I have been able to watch young girls who were once in tears wishing for an end to their lives now smile and go to school with dreams of great achievements I know they will get.

I owe a great deal of thanks to the people of Syria, they families who assist me when inside Syria; who let me stay with them, who share great deals of love & care to me.

I owe a lot of thanks to those who I work with in each region of Syria, who take much time to care for my safety & have assisted me beyond necessity in times of danger.

I owe much respect to the families who were only civilians in this war who reached out to me in my time working in Syria who have sadly since passed on.

I also owe my deepest condolences to all those who have lost family across Syria, to all those suffering and for being a part of this world, a world where I believe we should all be one; a world where we should all be reaching out to help one another in need.

I see much growth happening, communities coming together for schools, PTSD assistance, prosthetics assistance, fathers getting back into work and able to support their own families again, rescue teams in Syria who are volunteers only who give their lives to rescue civilians after attacks, there are endless lists of great work being done, progression and ability to get people back on their feet again, and this is what we must focus on, this is what is important now. The people of Syria need so much more assistance like this, and this is what it is all about.

As a human being in this world I reach out to you to please donate and assist the people of Syria for humanity.

Anyone who knows me will know I have no care for politics of religion, these boundaries are not anything I am a fan off in any way, I am a fan of humanity only, and my beliefs in life are simple; spread Peace & Love in our world.

www.youcaring.com/marathonforsyrians

Every penny counts. If you can donate $5, or $500 it all matters, it all makes a big difference to help those in need. Please donate, please share at least, please do what you can!

My efforts to assist are little, I know this, but this is a little way in which I am trying to help. I have no training at all to be running a marathon, my fitness is, well, non-existent to be honest, and I have a bad knee that likes to play up every now and then, yet I will endure through this marathon, even if it takes me 2 days to complete, I will do it because I have the strength in my soul from all the Syrians I have met and had the blessings of their love.

Please reach out, please help. Every penny counts and we can all make a difference to help humanity.

If I end up crying like a baby by the time I reach 5km begging for it to all end, contrary to my big claims of I will do it no matter what then I do apologize in advance, and ask for forgiveness in advance! (joking…!)

Please also join the event page I set up on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/256242801225245/

Thank you to those who have been so kind to donate to the marathon fundraiser, and to the organisation I have been so blessed to be a part of with some of the most incredible souls working tirelessly to assist the people of Syria. It really has been so touching to me the support I have had setting all of this up, and to those who have reached out and donated, and shared this widely, thank you from all of my heart, you are amazing!

Together we can really make a difference in this world, and really change the lives for the better of those Syrians who need the support now.

With Peace & Love,

Yasmin x

http://www.youcaring.com/marathonforsyrians
http://www.truthpeacelove.org

Homeless in Kilis; an influx from Syria.

15 Feb

Kilis, Turkey has recently received a vast influx of Syrians seeking safety after recent bombardments of Aleppo.

A mother cries with her children as they stand with their few belongings wondering where they can go.

A mother cries with her children as they stand with their few belongings wondering where they can go.

On any given evening you can find a lady crying on the cold streets of Kilis with her children with a heartbreaking story of survival and loss to tell you.

Kilis refugee camp is full, and there is no other place for Syrians to go. They are finding themselves on the streets with nowhere to go, many finding themselves with no place to pay their heads but on the streets of Kilis.

Syrians are huddled into empty shops, abandoned garages, and anywhere else they can go. Each evening you can find an abundance of Syrians sleeping in the bus station, while day-by-day they are constantly passing through trying to find a place to go.

1000’s of Syrians have entered Kilis in the past week, and the constant stream of people needing assistance certainly has no end in sight.

Around 50 Syrians huddle into this small space together to sleep

Around 50 Syrians crowd into this small space together to call this abandoned shop home for now.

Huddled together for warmth in an empty shop with over 50 people sleeping tightly packed together a young man shares with us his struggles, he has children to feed, along with his wife, and parents to care for. Even thought he is well educated he is unable to find a place to rent at a cheap price and more importantly work; the common tale for Syrians in neighbouring countries.

A woman assists her husband who is an amputee due to complications with diabetes to use the toilet; where is the toilet? It is a small bucket in the open public amongst Syrians outside of the local bus station; they no longer have the opportunity to even keep their dignity. Her husband has no insulin left and they are left with the streets to sleep trying to find a way to go to Istanbul where they hope for a better life.

KILISYASMINALTELLAWY

Young girls cry as they share their pains from their suffering and loss in Syria.

Aa a young girl cries, she tells me just one simple sentence as she struggles to get her words out from her tears, “I just want us to be one again in Syria”, she continues to share how she misses her father and older sister who has been missing for 2 months now & they have no idea where she is. 

Such simple words she shares with such an impact, a girl of just 14 years old, years ahead in maturity, like many children from Syria now, and a simple message of hope for us to be one in our world. Her tears are an overwhelming abundance of pain. There are few children from Syria who are not holding pain in the hearts nowadays.

Syrians entering Turkey from Bab Al Salam border crossing as the sounds of gunfire echo in the air.

Syrians entering Turkey from Bab Al Salam border crossing as the sounds of gunfire echo in the air.

Standing at Bab Al Salam border, or in Kilis refugee camp you can often hear the fighting a short distance away, a sound that no longer makes children shudder in fear, a sound they are much accustomed to at this stage. The only question I seem to get is where is the help for them they hear about so often in the media? Where is all of the money? Where is the UN? A long list of the same questions I have had thrown my way for the past 2 years now.
I sadly have no answers for them as I am unable to find a UN presence offering hands on assistance past wanting to gather the stories of tragedy for their records, there is a great lack of support for the Syrians who have recently fled Syria, I can only find local collections of people trying to help, and my own organisation now trying to offer what assistance we can.

Thousands have entered Turkey through Bab Al Salam in the past week, with thousands more having had to take dangerous, illegal crossings as they do not hold passports & they recently stopped allowing Syrians to enter without passports.

I found an elderly lady crying in the streets of Kilis with her hand badly cut open and clothing torn after a dangerous and scary journey for her, she injured herself on the barbed wire leaving Syria. She cried saying she had done nothing wrong, her home was destroyed and she had nowhere to go, what can she do.

There is no sight to an end to the war in Syria, a minimum of around 6000 people are leaving Syria daily, many with nowhere to go and millions displaced.

I cannot quite describe what it feels like to see people starving, cold, scared and with no security in any way. It leaves me sleepless, it leaves me with guilt, it leaves me to only wonder what on earth is happening in our world and why are we 3 years into a war in Syria, nearly half of the country having fled for assistance elsewhere, and countless dead. How on earth is this possible.

I don’t meet any Syrian in Kilis who has just crossed without a terrible sadness to share with me, they just lost their child, their wife, their husband, all so fresh and without time to even heal from their pains as they have to instantly struggle for survival on the streets of Kilis.

Homeless in Kilis.

Homeless in Kilis. A young Syrian girl finds herself on the streets of Kilis having recently left Syria.

From the young children to the elderly, every soul of Syria has their story and every story matters in our world. Every soul matters in our world.

These people coming to Kilis right now, and across every border are the people who matter, the civilians, those who are important and forgotten often in war. Please think of the people.
Nobody should be homeless in our world; a world of such vast resources, grandeur and wealth that doesn’t seem to hold equality.

I will share more from Kilis shortly, things are just very busy right now and I wanted to share something in this moment. All I can ask is for one simple thing…

Remember humanity in our world. Please.

WWW.TRUTHPEACELOVE.ORG

أنس الزير – Anas Al Zeer: Missing in Syria

7 Jan

Anas Al Zeer is the commander of Youssef Al Azmah brigade in Idlib. A Free Syrian Army group. He went missing on the 25th October 2013.

Anas Al Zeer

Anas Al Zeer, commander of Youssef Al Azmah Brigade, Idlib province

So who is Anas?
I first had the pleasure of meeting Anas early in 2012; he was among the first commanders who took me to Idlib & Aleppo on my first trip to the north region of Syria.
Anas took good care of me, along with the men of his group. He showed me kindness, and a respect that can be hard to find being a female in a war-torn country.
Anas introduced me to a wide variety of people, a mix of those within the war with conflicting views, yet all sat together to discuss the future.

Over a dinner he took me to, Anas insisted I sat beside him at the table with all the men, while to more religious men in attendance were somewhat confused, Anas wouldn’t have it any other way. We continued to enjoy a nice dinner with everyone, the only problem was I was overfed by Anas and the others, to then have to eat all over again with the women.
He gave me great respect at all times from near and afar. Anas was keen to show me the true Syrian personality.

Anas Al Zeer

Dinner with Anas in Idlib

Anas showed me what many have shown me in Syria and surrounding, the beliefs of a true person of Islam. Anas was in the revolution of Syria out of a belief to protect those around him from a corrupt government. Anas believed in showing the truth of what was happening in Syria.

Anas tried to ensure I stayed in comfort when with his brigade, and gave me a great feeling of safety when I was with his group. Laughter was shared time and time again, and we would have lighthearted arguments because he wouldn’t let me pay for things, nor would he take money from me when I was with his group, something that is rare within the groups of Syria now upon entering.

Later in 2012 I ended up in grave danger while in Syria due to someone spreading serious lies in an attempt to have me killed, lies that would get anyone killed in a war-torn region; an added danger being a foreign journalist. While in Aleppo there was a hunt for me, and my phone, Skype and who I was with was contacted by Anas continually, who heard the wrong doing and knew of the danger to me, he was very upset for me and wanted to help me to safety to ensure I got out of Syria on this occasion. I haven’t spoke about this situation, nor do I wish to go into the details currently, but I wanted to mention it because Anas took it upon himself to want to help me for no reasons past having respect for me in knowing I was there to help Syria as far as he was concerned. This was the character of Anas.
Anas swore to help me in any way during a time I was a blank on what to do. I was kept safe on this occasion and hidden for some time to get out safely, while Anas took it into his hands to rectify the situation where he could so it would be known that the lie was indeed this and nothing more. This wouldn’t be the only time Anas would assist me in safety thereafter.

Anas Al Zeer

Anas Al Zeer

Anas was the first person to take me to Aleppo, long before it became a haven for journalists to be, long before anyone would dare to go to Aleppo while it was government controlled primarily, and long before journalists saw a story in the region to want to go.
Anas would take me safely and ensure I would not encounter danger, giving his life to ensure nothing would happen to me, and I knew he would mean it and proved himself many times with this loyalty. A loyalty he believed in showing what was happening in Syria, wanting the world to see what was happening in his country; a trust he held in me to show the world what was happening in the country.

He contacted me often and would check if I was ok knowing of my travels in other regions of Syria, we would chat via Skype about the situation in Syria and I always saw the man behind it all; a man with a heart and a man with a conscious. A man who had to become a commander; who had to become a leader, a man who was a merchant living his life quite happily with his wife and kids until a threat came to his village that he felt he had to protect his family, those around him and beyond.

Anas Al Zeer

Anas Al Zeer

In 2012, Anas was injured badly and rushed to Turkey for treatment, I got a call that brought me to tears thinking it was time to say goodbye. He had been shot a couple of times in the leg while at a battle. During his recover he would chat to me on Skype and comfort me in my sadness for him, I was unable to visit and hoped to soon but was in the south region on Syria when it happened and by the time I was able to visit Turkey he had insisted in being carried back to Syria to recover and said his men needed him there along with his family so he would continue to recover there.

It is hard to explain sometimes the bonds that grow fast within a war. There have been people I have spent a day with, yet feel such a bond with that can never be explained. I have been lucky to spend much more than a day with Anas over different periods of time, and have been very thankful to him and his group for the safety provided to me.

He would joke with me that we should sell each picture for a dollar and share the money and how we could make a fortune out of it as he laughed with the young men around him.

Anas Al Zeer

Anas showing some of the men lost in battle from his brigade.

I would see the sadness in his eyes when other groups didn’t share things, arguments between groups and all these other issues the war in Syria brought over time. He liked to joke and would be frequently laughing with the young men around him, and have tears with great pain from his close friends he had lost as he proudly kept their pictures on display where he could.

Children adored him as he would laugh with them and give much affection as we traveled around.
There was even a bond within the men of his group that is not so common in Syria with the groups of such friendship, respect, loyalty, and love.

Anas Al Zeer

Anas Al Zeer

I last spoke with Anas at the beginning of October 2013.

Later into October 2013 Anas was abducted. What exactly happened is yet to unravel.

Anas was in Idlib; planning to go to Sarmin, he had to go to Ma’arrat Misrin first, this is where he was last seen.
A friend of Anas asked him for coffee, Anas replied that he had to go to Sarmin, and would come and have coffee with him when he got back. This is the last that has been heard of Anas. Anas has been reported as kidnapped from Sarmin.

He was driving a black Kia Sportage; the two men with him also vanished along with the car. Nothing has been heard, or seen of them since the end of October when they went missing. All that is left is a trail of heartache. The point is that nobody goes missing, let along three people and a car with nobody having information about the incident.

There are hundreds who have been kidnapped by ISIS and others, not only are foreigners a target for such groups.
Anas was a strong believer in the revolution, the core meaning of the revolution of Syria and stood by these beliefs, he didn’t partake in the general corruption most groups fell into, he tried to do things right, which also led to him being a greater target. He would make attempts to stop the bad groups, bad smugglers and all else that comes with a complex war such as Syria. He stood by his beliefs.

Anas was a merchant prior to the troubles in Syria, A young man in his early 30’s, he had a happy life with his wife and three young children, along with his brothers, sisters & parents. A loving, educated family that I have been lucky to get to know.

Anas Al Zeer

Anas Al Zeer

If you have any information about Anas please share what you know.

Let Anas go home to his loving family, to his young children who miss their father, to his heartbroken wife, to his family who are living every day in pain because they do not know what has happened to Anas.

I don’t know where you are right now Anas, but I want to thank you for everything always and will go as far as thanking you for the future, because I believe the time will come once again when you will assist me to do my job in Syria and do what is right.

I would love to share much more about Anas and my time with him & his brigade but I am unable to at this stage, but hope to in the near future.

There are hundreds of thousands missing in Syria for various reasons, and more so recently so many kidnapped, but each had their own story, each a human in our world and each as important.

We all have different experiences with different people in life, this is just a small part of my experience with Anas and what I saw in him. Anas assisted many journalists who came to Syria to show what was happening in the country.

Anas Al Zeer

Right: Anas Al Zeer

Anas has a good heart, a kind heart, a true heart in his beliefs.

Let Anas be free.

Reports lead to ISIS / ISIL for the abduction of Anas Al Zeer. He is possibly held in Aleppo (Halab) or Idlib. Any information you may have would be greatly appreciated.

Syria, سوريا, Siria, Syrie…

8 Dec

Whatever way you say Syria in your country one has to wonder what is there to say anymore that has not been said hundreds of times previously.

The answer is still the same no matter what way you look at it; there is no answer right now.

Numbers continue to amount daily in a seemingly never-ending death toll. Children weep for mothers & fathers taken by the war, parents weep for children taken before they can even hear them utter their first words or see that precious moment of their childs first steps on this earth.

Syria Refugee

The children of Syria

Millions are scattered across the globe with a destiny destitute to a life of struggle regardless of whether the war would even miraculously end tomorrow. Millions living under cloth in dusty, dirty grounds that is their haven, their sanctuary; the place that is now called home. If they are a slight bit fortunate they have a young child able to skip education who can work with all the others in the family through slave labour, earning less than what it costs to keep their family going, and their unfurnished or partly furnished apartment they are charged 3 times the rent just for being Syrian.

Children cry in hunger while their mothers hold back their own tears watching their hungry little ones in an attempt to show them strength to get through this difficult time, but the veil is but too thin, the children have already witnessed atrocities that should not be in the views of anyone in this world.

World leaders continue to stage discussions over the war of Syria, costing millions for a wondrous pre-planned show of talks staged so eloquently. Millions of dollars that could be saving lives, but the best suits must be worn, best foods & wines and all the delights must avail in luxurious resorts while the media gloriously battle for the best shots that will end up across social media edited accordingly to make fun of the powers of our world. Meanwhile, the people who truly matter in all of this, the millions forced to flee Syria and the millions trapped within the war trying to stay alive are none the wiser to any of these supposed events to assist Syria, let alone the outcome of the aid apparently being sent their way.

Syria; a country steeped in ancient history, artifacts studied of across the globe, lands that existed long before half the countries across our world who are apparently helping to make decisions for Syria, sites of great wonder visited by millions across the globe, and a hospitality never forgotten that stays in the hearts of those who got to experience Syria & the true people of Syria.

I could show you an endless supply of graphic imagery & footage our world has become rather immune to as we share it across social platforms with our sympathy, I could tell you all the stories of my time in Syria, kidnappings, arrests, near misses, lucky escapes and wonderous tales of survival and assistance and build up a fantastic amount of followers on twitter, Facebook and elsewhere; but I don’t simply because my story is of no importance, and nor will it bring any change sharing to you such graphic imagery that has truly become a norm to see from Syria worldwide. The war is too far gone and at this stage we must focus on the people of Syria, the surviving people of Syria and focus on their future which is not being done enough. Their tales of survival are all that matters and their future is all that must matter to the world.

The only thing I do want to share to you on a personal note while I work in Syria and surrounding is that I learned of love in Syria and from the people of Syria. I learned great lessons and continue to daily from the people of love like I could never imagine, kindness I could never describe. When someone is at their worst, tragedy all around and yet they will insist on taking me in; a complete stranger to them and give me hospitality better than that of my most loved ones I have known for years, it is beyond incredible and what inspires me to ensure I share the story of the people from the human side; the one that matters most.
The murder I witness, death, injuries, starvation and all the other frontline tragedy that comes with my work has taught me nothing but love, the need of love in our world and the great chaos our world is in to have these scenes I watch live. All I know from this is that it should not be happening under any reasons.

Syrian girl in refugee camp

A smile of love from a beautiful little Syrian girl who is now a refugee.

There is only one true gift that each of us hold in life and that is the gift of love. We have a great power to show love, give love and spread this across the sphere. I ask you to spread your love to the people of Syria, the people who need it most right now. I ask you to give what you can to help Syria, each and every soul can do something to help the people of Syria, in turn helping humanity, helping our world. Please focus on the love and share your gift.

I share this as I founded an organisation with some incredible souls this year to assist Syrians in need through special long-term projects, as well as urgently required aid where possible. In 2014 we plan to make it a lot bigger and improve how we assist and expand the amount of people we can assist.
We focus on victims of rape from the war and sexual abuse, PTSD in children, neo-natal care and have just started with setting up a long-term work program for Syrians, giving them work along with work with our organisation. We also assist with many individual cases for the Syrians who are often left out of the picture when not in a refugee camp and lacking the assistance they need from medical supplies, education needs and much more.

Please check out our website http://www.truthpeacelove.org and spread the word. Please reach out and assist if you can, and if we are not suitable for what you feel your needs are to assist Syria then please get in touch, we can direct you to a range of incredible organisation doing fantastic hands on work who need great assistance too. Please focus on the smaller NGO’s when donating to Syria and assisting in any way; we all need your help and are always doing much more work than the large organisations.

Don’t forget about Syria this holiday season, and make a pledge to do something to help Syrians in need.

Spread Peace and Love daily in every aspect of your life daily…

The babies of Syria

17 Oct

baby JibrilPremature birth is naturally on the rise in Syria and the surrounding regions. Mothers are put under extreme stress due to the war & trauma they endure,  it is also known that pregnant mothers are being targeted for fun by snipers.

Medical care in Syria is a difficulty to find as it is, when you need care for a premature baby or child in need who requires special care it is virtually the impossible.

A lot of babies are born with birth defects due to the lack of care and lack of nutrition available through pregnancy & after birth support.

I have met with several pregnant mothers to be in Syria and the surrounding regions who have had problems through their pregnancy, and many who have endured early labour due to injuries sustained, severe stress & lack of care through their pregnancy.
Many mothers have had to move place to place within Syria for safety through their pregnancy once their area has fallen to the hands of the war.

One lady I met with was 26 years old; she had been pregnant with her first child. Her husband and her wished to have their baby in Syria, their home country, and were planning to move to Lebanon after the birth when the child was in a stable position to be moved out of the country. They prayed for safety daily for their child to have a good future, they had been blessed for months without the war coming close to them. They both knew it was not an ideal time to have a baby, but after years of marriage & trying for a child for those years; they were blessed with a pregnancy.
There was an attack on their village and the mother was badly injured, causing injury to her baby while in her 3rd trimester. She was rushed to the nearest place that was a make shift hospital. They had to operate and perform an emergency caesarean section to try to save her baby. Sadly the baby had passed away from injuries sustained which were clearly visible on her baby girl’s body. The mother survived and is still recovering from injuries; however, she now has to recover from the loss of her baby and her husband who passed away on that same day she lost her baby. Her husband had tried to protect her as their building crumbled upon them. Nobody in her family had been linked to either side of the war and no members of her family were fighting in rebel groups, or the Syrian Army. They were civilians trying to live their life.

This story is not uncommon now in Syria. The immensity of the tragedy the people of Syria are facing is an overwhelming despair. There has been a long list of mothers I have met with; stories unbearable to hear, and many who lost their baby because they went into early labour and the care was not available to them for their baby to survive. These mothers are then carrying a heavy weight of guilt within and they too are not getting the assistance they need to deal with the trauma of losing their child.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy - Syrian refugees

Born in Syria and moved to Jordan just after birth. Now residing in Zaatari refugee camp.

For the Syrian mothers who have managed to flee to country to seek safety in a neighbouring country, the tragedy continues as they try to seek care for their babies, or through their pregnancy.
In the largest camp for Syrian refugees based in Jordan; Zaatari has a plethora of Syrian mothers complaining that they can only get baby milk up to 7 months old in the camp, the doctors tell them to feed their babies on rice thereafter they share with me. In Syria, mothers would feed their babies up to 2 years old on baby milk for a healthy life. These mothers cannot afford to buy the baby milk for their children even though it is widely available for sale on Market Street or Champs-Élysées as it is known.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy - Zaatari - Syrian Refugees

Syrian baby sleeps as his father and mother work in the Zaatari refugee camp.

I first met the father of this baby in March 2013 working in his store in Market Street in Zaatari. On a recent visit back there I asked for his baby girl and wife, he shared his baby girl had to go back to Syria recently to get medical treatment as she was very sick. Naturally it was a shock what I was hearing, ‘You would send your baby to Syria for medical treatment?’ I questioned. He explained he tried to get medical help in the camp but couldn’t, outside of the camp was too expensive and they could not afford the doctors, so with that his wife and baby went back to Syria to try to get medical treatment, he had to stay to work in their store as they need the money like every other Syrian now. He was deeply worried about them but said what could he do, nobody could treat his daughter in Jordan.

Photographer -Yasmin Al Tellawy - Jordan refugees

In the depths of the Jordan Valley, a Syrian baby who fled Syria just after birth sleeps while his parents worry about schooling for their other children who suffer disabilities

It is just one story of not only the people of Syria struggling so much outside of the country, but also shows just what it is like living in a country foreign to theirs and foreign to what they know. While most people across the west think the Middle East is just one large area that is the same; each country is completely different. Syrians are indeed in a foreign country whether it is Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt and the struggle continues for them no matter where they go.

Prematurity is being targeted in a small way by some organisations. It needs a lot more attention as it is on the rise and it will be a long term issue in the country and surrounding.

Dealing with a preterm birth is one of the toughest struggles a mother can face, especially when the baby is in need of special care from a neonatal unit. Their baby will not survive without neonatal care, and if they do they will be facing lifelong severe health problems without the care required.

Being a Syrian baby right now is a battle for life whether they are born a healthy baby, or if they are born premature. Either way they will have to battle for survival, however preterm babies have to fight even harder for that survival.

Sadly there are many babies who have been born who will never have a chance to meet their father or their mother, or in some cases will never have a chance to meet either parent and will only have a tragic tale of survival as their childhood memories.

What Happened to Love?

19 Sep

I’m talking about love, not that word that is thrown around on a daily basis holding no depth, that emotion that few lucky people get to experience in entirety in our world. We have love of many forms in our world, but I am talking about that once in a lifetime bond with another, that special something that connects us and give us pure safety in every ounce of our being.

Across the world, no matter where I go, love is missing. Cheating, deceit lies and more on top of that are the way of life, and what has become a normal in society tragically.

What happened to respecting your body, your soul, your heart? What happened that these hold no value; in my lifetime I have never known it to hold value.

Are we so afraid to jump so big and chase a dream emotion with someone who tickles our heart, or are we lonely beings as humans that just crave any human contact instead of dealing with our inner insecurities that bring us comfort to be alone and wait for something that special?

As I travel, I look around and get inundated with emotionally draining & heart wrenching life stories, I rarely hear a true love story, and when I do I cling to it.

I recently met a couple who have in total waited 14 years to be with one another. I have never seen such smiles and joy as I did at their wedding. It has moved me so deeply, through tragedy and struggle for over 10 years; this couple fought for love against all the odds and now have that special bond with no regrets of waiting for one another, it has touched me so much that this family is part of an upcoming film I am making now.

If I told you the full story you would be in tears. This is what saddens me; we are so touched by great love stories because they are that rare and we as humans in our world have made them that rare.

People have always thought I am an odd girl, chasing dreams, chasing a fantasy of once in a lifetime love, yet I confront and deal with the worst human crisis in our world, the older I grow and especially with my work surrounded by such tragedy frequently, I only stand stronger to my beliefs and morals on these matters, of which I am proud of. We have nothing if we do not have love I feel.

Young people cry to me over mistakes they have made, older people cry to me over mistakes they have made, stories of in one weekend they were in love, slept with the person and it was over that following week. This is the societies we live in sadly, but it seems not enough fight against this, people complain they want more and that once in a lifetime feeling but they don’t live by it, they don’t respect their body and soul.

I want to say to any female or male feeling insecure, feeling lonely, feeling lost and craving love that it is ok. All comes to those who wait, all comes when the time is right and that is the fact of it. Once day you will have someone special in your life, one day you will have it all so wait, wait for someone special and respect yourself.

Don’t live in lies; don’t live being who you are not. Don’t drag someone else into your mess if you cannot give them honesty, find yourself and do this alone without harming another with false promises of emotions, and don’t turn to resentment if you have been lied upon and do this to another.

If you think you are happy sleeping around, I can promise you that you are not. You may not know that now but one day you will find that and end up in regrets. If you think sex is happiness in your life then you are not living. We all have desires, we all crave physical contact, but we all crave most of all to wake up next to another who truly cares for us.

We don’t want to be alone on our death-bed, yet so many are, and so many lead a life leading to this. We want to feel butterflies when someone says our name, we want to know someone cares for us so deeply they live their life for us and they don’t even have to say it. We all want to have someone next to us we are so enamoured by as we fall asleep. We all want to laugh, cry, and be held when times are tough. We wat to plan trips with that partner who understands us and loves us for us through the good and bad in us, we all want true passion in every form of it, we all want a partner in the true meaning of it, and no matter what country I go to this is the missing key to life that everyone craves.

I work in cultures sometimes where this bond is not allowed to grow. I meet people so trapped by their religion that they are pushed into marriages unhappily. I meet people who live by stories I can tell them of emotions and love and life and it breaks my heart they have to live through someone else to feel anything because they are not granted the freedom to feel.
Then I look at Western cultureS and feel so sickened that they are granted all the freedom in the world and it is abused so greatly with lack of self respect, sex with people whose names are forgotten soon thereafter, and I just feel so saddened at the missing links across the world.

Live well, live true and respect yourself. I talk frequently with youth and teenagers and have over the years, and many have come back to me a little more grown up saying they wish they didn’t conform to society and pressures they had felt to sleep around and not love themselves. People try to tell you that you can’t be alone and just meet someone nice and good to you, no, wait for love I say, true love and when it comes it will hit you so hard that you won’t be able to run from it no matter what you try.

Love yourself, love your being. Don’t try to compensate for love, wait for that special feeling, love will come and it will be worth waiting for in every way. If you live in a culture where you are allowed to explore feelings of your own be so thankful, if you are in a culture where you are trapped from having self-expression of emotions then my heart cries for you, all the people I have met and all the love stories I have had shared to me, it breaks my heart how much love is disrespected.

If you have that special feeling for someone then jump big against all the odds. If someone is on your mind continually hold no fear in declaring it regardless of what may come back in return. Share your love, share your feelings and care nothing for what another thinks. Be love and if you are now happily married or getting there because true love has come your way then you have my every congratulations and advice to never let it go and even through the hard times, remember they only make you stronger together and never give up. If something is easy in life it is not worth a dime.

If you once thought you had love but it is gone, it is ok, it wasn’t the real thing, and if it was it will come back, in the meantime brush yourself off, remember you again, never forget your worth. You live, you learn and something better is always awaiting you. Most of all, don’t let it change you, learn what you do not want to be from a bad experience only.

Our world is missing love in many ways. Be a part of a world where love exists in every form, from your personal life to the love of humanity, spread love, and respect that word with what it truly means. Our life is so precious, love is so precious, and truly could be taken from us tomorrow, live for love.

Child Labour – the Future for Syrian Children?

7 Sep

Children of Syria have been forced to leave their childhood behind, they now have to be adults, many having to work at young ages to help provide for their family after having come through many graphic visions of war.

12-year-old Muhammad shown in this short video clip has had to work to help provide for his family. His days begin at 6.30am as he leaves for work, and arrives home around 7.30pm when he works the day shift, he mostly works the night shift now leaving for work at 6.30pm, arriving home the next morning. This is his second job in a restaurant and it has better conditions than the first. He works 7 days a week.

The strain of work shows clearly in his personality. He works all day for 5 Jordanian Dinars (Approximately 7 US dollars), 1 JD of this having to go towards his journey back and forth to work. Exhausted after work, he has little to say.

Muhammad does not attend school,  nor can he as his family need the money from his work. An average size family can cost between 10-15 JD a day for food, and this is a basic vegetarian diet.

Fawaz Mazrahawi of the Islamic Society Centre Charity in Jordan says “We have recorded over 1700 cases of child labour and are running a program with UNICEF to assist these children back to school while providing the families the help they need.”
The Islamic Society Centre Charity have many branches across Jordan assisting the many families in need as much as they can. They feel that child labour is a big problem in Jordan and believe it is going to be a rapidly rising issue.

Muhammad lives in a Palestinian camp area of Amman after having to flee his home in Homs. Palestinians in Jordan, of which their are 2 million registered, are now guiding Syrians through struggles as refugees as they now follow the steps the Palestinians went through first fleeing to Jordan. For many Palestinians in this area, a daily struggle for food has become a norm to their life after many years as refugees. Many Syrians and Palestinians living in this area share their food when dinner time arrives.

Muhammad, a young boy who once enjoyed playing football and other games children enjoy with their friends, now lives with those past times being a long distant memory as he travels to work to earn a small amount of money that is not even enough to feed his family for the day.

This is becoming a frequent occurrence with Syrian refugees. Their options are limited and their daily thought can only be for survival. Dreams and future plans hold no meanings to their life anymore. The fact is, many Syrian refugees are living in complete poverty, how to feed their kids is a worry every morning as they wake.

Jordan Valley, Syrian Refugees, Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy

A Syrian family from Hama, now living in the Jordan Valley. He was a farmer in Syria, and is able to live and work on the farm with his family for free rent.

In the Jordan Valley children are known to be working on the farms to earn money. In the summer time in Jordan, most move to other areas to work as they are not accustomed to the heat of the valley’s, while Syrians who were once farmers in Syria have been able to adjust and are able to continue a life they had in Syria in Jordan.

Some business owners are fully exploiting the situation of Syria refugees by paying them little and making them work long hours, while others feel proud they are giving Syrians work regardless of their age as they feel at least they are helping them with a way to provide some money for those in need.

Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy

One of the children in Zaatari refugee camp who offers a food taxi service around the camp to earn money.

In Zaatari refugee camp, a child can be seen in most directions you look pushing a wheelbarrow – a business earning them around 1000-1500 Syrian pounds (Approximately 7-11 US dollars) per day delivering food supplies from Market street, or anything else required to families. The children I spoke to in Zaatari were happy doing this and earning money for their family.

While many are happy to be working at young ages, and many would have been working at young ages in their villages back in Syria, there are many who are having to turn to work, abandoning education, to try to help their family and this would have been far from their lifestyle in Syria.

With the increasing number of Syrians having to flee their war torn country, child labour within the refugees is yet another problem on the long list of issues they have to deal with.

(Muhammad has been used in place of the real name for safety reasons)

Homeless, Scared & Alone as a Young Syrian boy tries to feed his family.

9 Aug

The war in Syria continues to rage on with no sign of an end in the near future. Young Syrians are feeling the pressure to work and provide for their families. If you have not turned to working within the war in Syria in some way, then you are left out in the cold when it comes to finances.

My phone rings; a shaky distressed voice I couldn’t recognise was of what sounded like a very scared young boy. It turned out to be a boy I did know. His family had taken me in to stay a few times while working in the north of Syria. In particularly, they took care of me at a time that could have brought great danger to their family while helping me through a troublesome situation.
His words of confusion and sheer distress were apparent that he was in a bad situation and didn’t know what to do. He had managed to get to an internet café, asked to use the internet to find my details which led him to asking to use anyone’s phone to make contact to me.

He had left to Istanbul a month prior to contacting me. His father gave him what money he could to help him get to Istanbul. Many Syrians see Istanbul as a gateway for work and a means to provide for their family. The reality of earning a living in Turkey turns out to be a mere fantasy for most.

I asked him why did he go, knowing he was unfamiliar with the world outside of Syria, a gentle young boy, and had dived in the deep end as many have and continue to do, he said “I need to feed my family, tell me what can I do?”

Having never left Syria alone before, his journey began. After a long bus ride from Hatay, he was in Istanbul and had found work in a factory. Along with many other Syrians, work days being at least 14 hours, he laboured alongside those who also sought a better future for themselves and their loved ones. 22 days later, he was thrown out of the factory where he stayed & worked, along with 20 other Syrians, some who had worked for 2 months and more to find themselves on the streets. They were told they were no longer needed for work; when asked for their money they had worked hard for, they were laughed at as the door slammed on their face.

Factory in Istanbul

The factory entrance where Syrians have been used for work, including Muhammad

21 young men were now sleeping on the street in an area of Istanbul that nobody would desire to be, surrounded by drug dealers, heroin addicts and the typical characters one would expect in such a neighbourhood.
Nobody offered them help, this young man was deeply disturbed by this he shared with me as he only knew his culture and ways of living; They would go out and feed the homeless on the streets, they would take people in to sleep under their roof in their family home anytime another was in need with no questions asked, he grew up in a family where they would leave themselves poor just to feed another in greater need. He couldn’t understand why not one person over the days on the street would stop to help them.

Muhammad found himself on the streets hungry without a penny to his name, feeling ashamed for being in a position where he was unable to feed himself, let alone help his family in need. Some men around him resorted to stealing food in hunger, but this young man refused to turn to such activities. He sold a small bag with some clothing, his only belongings he had just for a little money for food, which he shared with the other men.

PhotoYasminAlTellawy

This is where Muhammad called home while he slept on the streets

With a little help from great friends I have been blessed to encounter through my life, he was taken in right away to a safe place where he was cared for until I could finish up some work and get to Istanbul.

He was always a very skinny young man as I recalled when I last saw him in Aleppo, but this time when I saw him, he was a bag of bones & as white as a ghost. A smile was something he had long-lost the mean of, even in seeing me again he couldn’t break a smile, only tears with exhaustion, fear and relief of seeing someone he felt he could trust were all he could express.

He had taken to me as a big sister when I stayed with his family.  His mother had many sons, and always wished for a daughter she would tell me, I came along and she saw me as a daughter, she didn’t know why, nor I, but we felt a strong connection to one another. She cared for me in every way she could think of, forcing me to wash as I would try to refuse to not use their limited water, even though I was absolutely filthy from weeks without a proper wash.

Muhammad’s mother is one of the kindest, loving souls I could ever have met in my life. I loved just watching her with her gentle smiles, soft-spoken loving words & tender-hearted touch. I felt in many ways I owed this family my life as they done more than the usual family had done for me inside Syria.

To date, the family are long over a year without electricity in their village. We would laugh together at night as we would fill the lamp with diesel for light, with chats in hope the next day we might have water. One of the young boys would come back after a long time trying to get bread only to return empty-handed. We would giggle in the morning as I awoke battered & bruised as one of the young boys had taken to kicking through his wrestles sleep; and I had refused to listen to his mother’s warning to say no when he asked if he could sleep next to me; I then understood why.
We would watch helicopters drop bombs all around always on edge that it would be us next, while the young boys would pull out their school books telling me how they missed school wishing for me to teach them English. Still, there would be laughter and love, this lady had such a pure heart and I will never forget her tears as she hugged me so tightly worrying for me as I had to say goodbye.

Muhammad felt safe now with me. We spent hours talking; he shared every detail of his horror story. He had 2 choices, to stay and try to work in Istanbul again or go home to Syria.
I took him to the good area of Istanbul, the one we all know with beauty and wonder all around. Sights he had never seen, only dreamed to see in life, I told him to take a few days and relax, I gave him a holiday and told him he was safe.

I took him out to eat and I couldn’t work out why he wouldn’t eat, surely he must have been hungry, sleeping on the streets for days, but he wouldn’t really eat. I was not only a sister figure to him but also a mother figure for the young man, so I had to play mother goose and force him to eat. He finally told me why he wouldn’t eat; he felt embarrassed because he didn’t know how to use a knife and fork. Something I took as a given. While this is far from all of Syria as most do know how to use cutlery, he had always been in a small village and eaten in tradition ways with bread being the fork as such. He felt shy to tell me as he didn’t want to feel stupid; it was the cutest thing to me though. I shared with him for me the first time travelling to villages in the middle of nowhere in the Middle East and when I had to first sit down and use bread as my way to catch food and how I made a fool of myself trying to eat like the others, he giggled and didn’t feel so bad then. It was pizza and chips on the menu for the duration of his time with me while he tried to learn through me how to use cutlery. Even pizza was a first for him to try.

Muhammad is an extremely intelligent young boy, his English is incredibly good, but he had just never had a chance to be outside of his village. Very well educated as were his brothers, I always wondered what great things men like him could do if they had to opportunities we in the West take for granted so often.

I took him to beautiful sights that were wondrous to him as I watched magic in his eyes to see everything. I took him for long walks with beautiful surroundings and let him share all he needed. As we walked by the Bosporus, I asked him if he enjoyed swimming… he said he had never even seen the sea before. Next thing he knew he was sitting on a boat for the first time. It gave him such peace, such a sense of calm able to share to me all his problems & thoughts.

Boat trip - Istanbul

Muhammad seeing the ocean and having a boat trip for the first time

He met friends of mine, good people; including a very kind lady we had dinner with who gave him some money to help him and his family. He would ask me in confusion and tears why she would do that as I explained some people are just kind in life truly and to not judge from his back experience.

He was deeply shy from me having come to help him and spending on him. Some members of his own family had made him feel ashamed of failing as they saw it.

He wished to study in life to have a good future to take care of his family, to someday have his own, but he knew Istanbul was not going to be as financially fruitful as some members in his family believed. He would go back to Syria for Eid and think of what options he may have for a better future.

For the first time he was boarding a plane with me. A sad moment for him as he feared what would be waiting for him as he went home. He glared out of the window as the sun lit up the sky welcoming in the morning over the clouds. He told me how beautiful it was, how beautiful everything was he got to see with me and how thankful he was. I knew he was suffering from severe stress, so I made him take an extra day to rest and try to sleep before he had to go back home as we arrived in Antakya.

His father had always been a difficult character in his life. When his father would come into a room while I was staying all laughter would end, only silence dared to fill the air. He was a kind man to me, but I could always see the fear in the family’s eyes when he was around. Muhammad’s mother would joke with me about running away to France with me.

Members in his family told him they would not be able to collect him at the border. A very young man, in a war zone, needing to venture through what was a highly dangerous of raging battles, and he was to be left alone by his family. Devastated I assured him it would all be ok.
His brother who he is closest to was without phone to be able to contact him who would have of course helped him. The only one he could contact was the one brother who lacked understanding of what he went through and only cared for him to be bringing back money to the family.

Muhammad got back to his family home safely, however is feeling severe pressure to provide for his family as he sees the situation for his loved ones deteriorated greatly to what he had last saw. He struggles in confusion on how he can provide for his mother and young brothers.

Tears filled his eyes as we said goodbye, with a giggle beneath his tears as he said ‘Peace and Love’ waving me farewell; something he had heard me saying too often and learned fast this was my only motto for life.
He gave me the greatest gift of all, the blessing of being able to help another soul in need, the gift of being able to share peace & love. This gift is the most valuable of all in our world.

He left with a long list of first times to reminisce over from his time with me & a photo album of his journey. He saw for the first time the beauty of waves crashing under the suns glimmer, first time to try strawberry ice-cream, pizza, and various foreign foods. He has his first flight with me, first time to stay at a hotel. He also had many firsts of negativity including sleeping in a factory, slave labour, sleeping on the streets, & learning what a heroin addict looked like and how they use the drug, along with street prostitution as he asked me in confusion about things he saw from his innocence.

Most importantly, he left his time with me having had too many laughs by the end, smiles, and visions of beauty through sharing love in our world, he had hopes and dreams he had buried for 2 years were coming alive again. His faith in humanity and his fight through this life enabled within again.

The other young men who were used for work, mostly returned back to Syria, a few continue to work elsewhere in Istanbul for minimal money.

A 26-year-old was now a father for 2 young children after his brother was killed in Syria. It was now his responsibility to provide for these 2 children his brother sadly left behind. All the young men shared an equally tragic story of how they ended to being on the streets of Istanbul. Each of them, as with many young men wanted a future, a life; they were wise in many ways. They all shared the same issues however of pressure in Syria to fight when they did not want to. All of them being teased for being cowards as others would call them for not fighting.

A bleak future of struggle and severe hardship is the only one ahead for most Syrians nowadays. The men of Syria possibly facing the greatest difficulties if they choose a life not destined for fighting. The man in the Middle East must be just that, a ‘man’, he is deemed as weak for shedding a tear, he must care for many others in his family, and he holds such great responsibilities at a young age.

Syrians across the world are feeling suffering at this point. Few families left untouched from tragedy that war brings. Syrians across the world exhausted financially from assisting their loved ones and fellow Syrians. Young men feeling great pressures as the war intensifies, many have a sense of suicidal wishes choosing to just fight from pressure as death seems the only option now for them as opportunities for a future are becoming fewer by the day.

The men of Syria have little focus on their troubles. Many focus only on women and children suffering; the men are struggling greatly also. The men are suffering severe torture with sexual violence as a form of humiliation. The men are suffering pressures from every direction. The men are left alone without a support network that women are able to reach out for. Not every man in Syria is fighting; many are fleeing their days of being a fighter due to the changing situation in Syria with outside groups taking over areas in Syria.

Countless Syrians are finding themselves abused for work in Istanbul and elsewhere. With little support available for the men of Syria, it seems their life is only destined for one of hardship and severe struggle as they try to support their loved ones.

Sadly this story is not a one-off. I have had many Syrians contact me regarding abuse like this. I met with many Syrians in different areas of Istanbul, who all had tragic tales of struggle as they attempted to assist their loved ones.

(‘Muhammad’ has been used in place of the real name)

Desolation in Refuge for Syrians

20 Jun
Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Millions of Syrians have been struggling for survival daily for over 2 years. With no sight to an end of the war in Syria, the struggles continue within Syria and in the surrounding neighbouring countries who have been welcoming those who seek refuge.

Men, women & children are fleeing Syria by the thousands daily, however the life they can be entering is off extreme hardships in their host countries.

Lack of funding is already giving great pressures to the humanitarian agencies assisting the vast amount of people in need. Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt & Iraq have become the new homes to Syrians seeking safety, but safety is not something they are always receiving.

Robbed of their homes, jobs, belongings and loved ones from the war in Syria, predominantly unable to get work in their host countries, not enough help for them & their at times large families, many Syrians are find themselves with no choice but to enter into a path shame selling themselves.

I meet women with young children, who have lost their husbands & other loved ones in the war, who feel they have no choice but to sell their body for money. They have hungry children to feed & higher priced rent than normal to maintain if they are not within a refugee camp and they feel completely alone and terrified.

While prostitution is no stranger to any country or religion, it is becoming much too common within the refugee communities of Syria.

While some women venture into such a path in desperation by personal choice, others are forced into brothels with no escape. Girls I have met in all neighbouring countries share with me their feelings of shame and guilt while in a safe shelter after being rescued from such situations, each has their own tragic story they tell me of how they got to that stage, some girls as young as 12 years old.

One girl I met is 13 years old, her parents died in Syria, she was taken to a neighbouring country for safety. Instead, she found herself thrown into a brothel, her dignity already stripped from great loss in Syria, This girl is also pregnant with the father being one of the clients of the brothel that was more than happy to abuse a child in such a disgraceful conduct. She wishes for death and has attempted suicide on two different occasions. She is in a safe shelter being cared for by the right people assisting her and is recovering as best as someone can given the horrific ordeal she has been through.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

One of the wedding & beauty shops in Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan. Life continues as best as possible with marriages a frequent occurrence as they would have been in Syria, and some marrying to feel safer.

Women of Syria are also being bought as brides to men who claim to wish to take them to a better life elsewhere, they use them and disappear. These girls are then left dishonoured, with so much shame when they have done nothing wrong. Syrian women have always been recognised throughout the world for their beauty; men are now finding easy access to these women, and use them with no shame to their actions.

Women can be found begging in the streets where they are in such danger of being kidnapped, raped or murdered, but say they have no choice to try to get money.

Photographer -Yasmin Al Tellawy

This little girl was begging at the side of the road with her mother alone, a road used by truck drivers mainly. Her mother said she had no choice, she had to beg every day to try to pay rent for a place to sleep, her husband was in Syria. This young mother, alone with her child knew the dangers she was facing when I asked her, but she had no choice she said.

I recently attended a wedding of a young Syrian girl who was getting married to a man from the Emirates who was 41 years her senior. Excited at the prospect of getting married & being able to help her struggling family with money barely worth mentioning as the dowry, she weds. Two days after the wedding, her husband had to return to work and would be coming back to get her soon to go back to the Emirates with him. Over a month has passed since the wedding and the groom has not been heard off since. This tragically has become a more common story among the communities of refugees.

Syrian women themselves in some cases, have become pimps for lack of better terms. Arranging marriages for money or running brothels. Generally brothels are run by men and women who have been previously involved in the sex trade who have seen the Syrians as a great way to expand their business.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Within Syria in certain areas where extremists are feared by Syrians themselves, fighters from foreign countries with associations to terrorist organisations who have been able to gain ground in Syria throughout the war are also taking advantage of these young girls in Syria. Families have told me that these men come to a refugee camp in Syria or an area full of refugees with many girls and pick what girl they want as a bride. Their fathers tell me they know if they dare to say anything these men would not hesitate to kill them.

There are incredible people who are assisting women to find work or education. Many communities have helped them with finding work in local hospitals as a cook, teaching little children, making clothing, and a wide array of other options so that these women to not fall into prostitution. They get salaries for their work and keep their dignity.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Safety within refugee camps is also greatly overlooked. Corruption continues in host countries with guards of refugee camps accepting payments to allow men to enter the camps at night and abuse the Syrian women, if they are not taking advantage of the women themselves. They are granted access to rape and kidnap girls or both if they choose. Women live in fear within refugee camps with the knowledge of what could happen to them.

Syria is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in history with no end in sight. Millions homeless, countless numbers killed, countless injured lacking assistance, Syrians seem to be entering a life of destitution. While I do not deny there is great work being done by many and commend many organisations for their life changing work, the crisis of Syria is just an overwhelming issue.

The more time I spend within Syria and in neighbouring countries within refugee communities, I see just how wide-spread this issue is. None of this is new to what I have been speaking off since the latter part of 2012.  Having spent a lot more time on these issues within this year especially, I can only see a fast growing rise in this issue. New brothels frequently arising in nearby countries to Syria, with scared young women living in fear within them, more prostitution arising in refugee camps with women as cheap as a few dollars for an hour in some camps. I still am yet to see any organisation truly target these serious crimes and issues to give better protection to the women and children of Syria who are most vulnerable.

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