Let’s go back to the beginning… Syria.

18 Aug

I started going to Syria from the beginning of the revolution. Looking back, it was the beginning of me truly living. I could never put into words the enlightening feeling there is of being surrounded by such an abundance of love, strength and passion in life.

Mid 2011 – Early 2012: While it was the beginning of a horrendous continual spiral downwards for Syria, it was also a time of unity, love, welcoming and laughter; emotions I was blessed to be a part off; looking back at the Syria I enter now I truly appreciate every moment in the beginning with all I got to experience.

I entered the country through routes unimaginable, mountain terrains across Lebanon, tunnels, running for your life through land mine territories, along with the paths that felt like a walk in a park which were somehow more worrying to me that a war zone was a few footsteps away. The stories are endless but I know many Syrians can tell plentiful tales than I ever could this one, and tragically many did not live to tell the tales of these dangerous crossings.


The early demonstrations in Syria

When I finally reached the other side, I would be greeted with smiles, hugs, kisses, pulled in every direction by the locals of whatever village I arrived to. It was a joyous time in many ways. I would walk through the streets with the locals learning all about their life, discovering everything with little worry of those surrounding me. The shabiha were very present but I felt at such ease and comfort always of the men of the newly formed Free Syrian Army. This was a time when there was true unity across Syria in opposition to the government forces.

There was a beautiful energy among the people, even with the murders & imprisonments happening across the country.


The early demonstrations in Syria

The streets would be full of cheering in the newly liberated areas, children playing in the streets as they should be, and then there were the demonstrations. What a wondrous time that was. I am sure you know what I am talking about if you were there. You remember that energy, the songs, the dancing, the chanting, the children clapping and dancing with their parents, handmade flags whisking through the crowds, in the villages the dry rice would be falling over you as the women sang and threw it over the crowds in joy. When I would arrive I would be treated like royalty! The people had so much love to show me, the welcoming was incredible. Most of my footage was terribly shaky as I couldn’t stop myself from having a little dance as I waved my way through the crowds. The drums would beat all around me and the sound of freedom songs filled the air. My ribs would ache continually as I traveled for weeks and months across the country and the laughter would be never-ending. I wish I had all my hard drives with me right now to share so much more.


An early demonstration in Syria

Most of my travel would be done on the back of a pick up truck or a motorcycle, and at times whatever makeshift means of travel could be put together. I could travel across open roads freely in many ways while in FSA territory. There was a great sense of freedom as I could feel the wind against me as we traveled and I could film at ease with the locals welcoming nature.
We feared shelling, warplanes and snipers loyal to the Assad regime, but looking back in comparison to what has become now, the escalation is absolutely shocking.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there was tremendous tragedy, pain across the country that will always haunt, human life lost with no just reasoning. While the demonstrations would take place, there would be those times when government loyal forces would storm the area and kill as many as they could in their path of terror. Indiscriminate bombings, civilians murdered continually, loved ones constantly disappearing. The FSA took care to protect the civilians demonstrating, that was their job and the origins of why they were formed.

I don’t wish to go into all of that however, not in this moment. I mention this just incase anyone reading this things it was some sort of fun party in Syria; it was far from it. The realities were ridiculously dangerous and the war crimes unbearable to recall as they continue to be.

My reasoning for writing this is simply because I have continued to work in Syria to this day I write this and I have witnessed every step of the revolution, and the now chaos the country has descended into. Things are very different as we all know, week by week things change fast on the ground. Sadly the atrocities continue; in vast numbers with many different groups committing crimes now. Sadly I am not free to roam the streets and talk with locals as I wish. Sadly I cannot be known as a journalist or even humanitarian upon working with my charity there, and each time I enter the country, only my eyes show knowing there are few I can trust. I get such an overwhelming sense of sadness in these moments I travel. A once ‘freedom’ in many ways, to now a need to stay invisible. I feel weighed down at times with sadness from what has become of Syria lately and sit in this moment and recall so many cherished memories and cherished souls I have encountered.

I share this because I miss that unity. I miss those days, although I wish those days never had to exist, but I miss the beauty and glow of the Syrian people.

I have had a very busy year to date, but mostly have been away from social media as I just have not had the time to check in on it, but also at times because it saddens me deeply too. If I take a quick scroll through my news feeds on accounts I see so much hate, I just feel further sadness. There is enough destruction happening physically without now using social media as a method to spread hate too.

I do also have so much love, and you know who you are across the world who take their time to think of me and show me love frequently. That is never forgotten.

Smiles in Syria!

Smiles in Syria!

Stop and think, please. What has hate ever done for our world? What has hate ever done for you personally? What is that going to do for the chaos that has become Syria? I know a lot of it comes from places of anger and emotions, but focus those emotions towards love, towards sharing peace. That is how you can make a difference for Syria, for humanity.

Don’t waste time fighting over political movements in the country, the endless list of groups fighting across the country and the ever so complex who is who amidst this. Take your time on something in which you can and will make a difference, humanity. Remember that energy in the beginning, the love true Syrians have, that energy that was there in the beginning, it is still there in many, the people are weak in spirit but you can give them strength across the world to hold on to that love they had.

I still believe in Syria. I still believe in the people of Syria and I have ever reason to. My safety is in their hands to this day, to this day Syrians across the country protect me, give their lives to care for me. I will never be able to return the favour of what the people of Syria do for me, and I know the spirit of those who I have loved who has passed on are always surrounding and protecting me.

We all want to walk the streets of Syria freely once again, we all want to smell the sweet jasmine in the gentle evening breeze once again, and globally we need to be a part of the change.

There is no question hate is spreading across our world, the illness as I refer to it as called racism and religious intolerance from lack of understanding is on the rise. We have very sick people in our world who live by prejudice, and the only way to fight this is through a peaceful means. Through education, patience, and sharing peace and love in every step of our life we can teach those less educated about our world so much.

A wall in Kafranbel, Idlib, Syria

A wall in Kafranbel, Idlib, Syria

Weapons whether physical or verbal bring us pain and take us all to a dark place. Our world is big enough for us all to share. Our world has beautiful experiences we should all be able to share and I may be a dreamer, but our dreams are as alive as we make them, and I would prefer to journey through this life focusing on the love and sharing those experiences.

We are all humans, remember that. We are all part of the destruction across our world and we are all responsible for change. We all can be better, more loving souls every day and we need to work on that progression. Syrians taught me how to love, how to have inner peace, how to become a better person. Syrians showed me what love truly meant in this world with their kindness towards me, a strange to them in the beginning. Syrians deserve our love, and they deserve us to be showing the human face of the country much more.

With that I shall close on another note, from October I will no longer be working for mainstream media, I will be truly freelance again as I was in the beginning. I have always stayed freelance, but been drifting to too many contracts that do not give me satisfaction in what I do. I will no longer play a part in the role of the media giving minimal time with no care for the human story. I know that what the public want to see more, yet mainstream media continues to lack behind the public calling.

I will continue what I do but I will do so for anyone who wishes to take the time to see a human side of a story and I shall only be sharing human, civilian only stories from now on. If mainstream media wishes to take my stories they can do so as it is without editing my stories in any form; not that I have ever allowed anything from me be distorted to become a lie. I need to get back to human only stories as I began. These are the stories that matter in our world, the people deserve a voice. I ask you to do the same and together let’s keep peace and love spreading in our world and let’s keep the face of humanity alive.

Thank you for reading this if you have got this far… Truly thank you.

Peace and Love always…

Yasmin x


15 Apr

Islam – the most controversial religion & topic in our world right now.I don’t like to turn a story into one that is about me, I like to stay private in my work as I think most will know, so I apologise in advance as I am turning this blog to be one that is about me to get my point across to you.

From the beginning of the crisis in Syria I have continually stayed on the ground with little time out the outside. To this day it remains the same. I have watched first hand this crisis changing, evolving, darkening. One thing has remained the same however; the true good people of Syria have remained loyal to assisting me, supporting me, protecting me, and respecting me.

Most of my time is spent with families. Families who are truly suffering within the war who are trying to cling to their dignity. I have stayed with families through their losses, tragedies, heartache, movements; each struggle that is faced within a war. Even through all of this they insist on caring for me. They insist on taking me in, giving me a place to sleep, feeding me and to this day it is a fight for me to try to give them anything in return.

I have argued with women trying to force me to wash; I have reservations as I do not wish for them to waste what little water they have on me washing when I just do not care when there, yet they force me. Come to think of it maybe that is for their benefit & not mine after all!

I sit with families that have such little food yet with their culture insist on giving all they can to me. I sit with their children who I can see are hungry & unhealthy yet even the children want to force feed me with no thought for themselves.

I am greeted with a love so rare; a love & bond that is indescribable. I am fought over on where I sleep as the children always like to sleep next to me. I am hugged & kissed in overwhelming amounts when I am welcomed back. I am cried over when it is time to say goodbye to a family to move to another area. I have gifts stuffed into every crevice of my bag; kids drawing for me & writing me letters, items now amounting to boxes weighing down my friends on each border awaiting a time I can get everything home.

I am sharing these small glimpses of life because this is the true face of Syrians; this is the true face of Islam. Anyone who has spent time with a Muslim family will know of the kindness; you will know of the bonds & the love created and I am quite sure you have never experienced such kindness, or situations of being so ridiculous full from eating too much with aching muscles from laughter too. I am most certainly not the only one with these experiences naturally, it just seems few speak out in public about it all.

Now, I am sure there will be some rather critical souls reading this who will be seeing me as a promoter of Islam or something alike. I do not promote or support any religion to be quite frank. I have my own spiritual beliefs in life, I simple believe in giving peace & love in all we do. I do have a problem with hate and lack of understanding in this world which makes me feel a need to speak as I am now. I have no disagreements with any religions; only with hypocrisy. I respect anyone living truly to their religion, everyone has their free choice in this world to be who they want through religion or no religion as far as I am concerned.

I do not hide who I am to anyone with my beliefs, and I am accepted for who I am and loved for who I am. Why? Well, the people truly living by Islam do not impose their beliefs upon another and accept another for who they are. As in any religion; it should never be imposed.

When I speak with people about why they still care for me, why they still protect me; they are putting their lives on the line to protect me – a stranger to their family for whom they could all be killed for; they simply do it naturally and find humour in my asking as it is just normal for them to do so and they are completely oblivious to the depths of what they do in caring for me.

It is no secret a lot of the world has a deep fear of Islam. Sadly Islamophobia is rapidly on the rise in every country. I am faced with conversations continually from people whom I can find little respect for when they feel a right to argue me about Islam and why it should be gone from the western world when they themselves have not even spent time with a Muslim; let alone visited a Muslim country. The lack of educated minds in our world is mind-blowing at times.

There is no question that the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other groups alike should be feared. There is no question they are involving themselves in terrorist activities. The thing that is forgotten is that true Muslims are not representatives of them. They know they are not Muslim and their practices are far from the practices that are stated in the Quran. They are simply a terrorist organisation masking under the name of a religion that does not belong to them.  The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a deeply complex matter to understand in itself, I shall leave that one aside for now.

Mainstream media is sadly an instigator for such hate rising in our world. While I work in the industry it does not mean I agree with much of what is done. There needs to be vast change in media & I do hope I see it in my lifetime. The term terrorist has taken a turn in the media to be one that is put into use when it is a person of Islamic birth roots committing the crime. The often happening school shootings across America from born Christians or otherwise are acts of terrorism, the tragic plane crash recently in France was an act of terrorism carried out by an individual, the beheadings of civilians are acts of terrorism, the Syrian regime dropping barrel bombs across Syria are acts of terrorism. There are continually acts of terrorism across our world. Terrorism comes in the form of all religious backgrounds, all colours, all countries.
Please think before you speak; please learn understanding because the hate being spread in our world is more terrifying to me than being in the midst of the most complicated battles within Syria could ever be.

A true person of Islam echoes the kindness & love I mention above on how I am cared for. This is the real face of Islam and this is a majority worldwide.

We are dividing our world. We are placing barriers between religions, the colour of someone’s skin, their country of origin, their sexual orientation & how another chooses to dresses. We are all responsible for the crisis in our world. We are all part of the problem and we all need to be taking steps to bring a change for the better; for the future in our world. We need to be removing these barriers that many have fought against through history to bring unity globally; yet here we are wishing to regress our societies.

I would not still be alive on this day to write this if it were not for the good-hearted souls representing what Islam truly is. In times of trouble in Syria there have been people who fought for my safety, Muslim people, there was no reward for them assisting & protecting me. They did not even want it to be known that it was them who helped me.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are issues within every culture; deep issues that need to be rooted out.  There is no such thing as perfect and everything takes hard work in our world. In the end hard work will always pay off. What we do need is a worldwide unity to tackle these challenges.

Lay down the hate and think. We are supposed to be educated individuals advancing in our world yet we seem to be plunging downhill.

Thank you to the beautiful souls I know worldwide from all religions backgrounds and countries; and a very special thank you always to the true people of Syria for all you do for me.

‘Calling all Humans’ – an inspiring read.

22 Mar

I want to share this beautiful poem written by an inspiring young lady; Tanisha Ahmed. She first wrote to me when she was 13; now at 15 she has written this and sharing it on Monday 23rd March in New York for a poetry contest.
I feel very proud of this young lady, who she is and who she is becoming every day. She sent me this to share with her nerves about reading it aloud, she has a vision that is just heart-warming; full of love and care for humanity and a strong passion from when she first wrote to me to care for humanity and do something for our world.

Please read and share your thoughts, I would love for Tanisha to be able to see the support and love there is across the world.

I have no question this girl is going to go very far in life and make a big difference to our world. Through every email she shares with me I see it more and more and can only smile greatly with love that I have been lucky to know her. She is full of wisdom beyond her years from the first day she reach out to me and it continues to grow wonderfully.

I cannot upload it here in the same format as she has it, but please do read it below, it is beautiful to see the young in our world, the future with such love and passion to have these feelings to write something as this.

My love to you always Tanisha; where ever I am you are thought about often and inspire me daily. x

2015-03-22 17.25.12_resized

Calling All Humans

O my beloved sisters and brothers whom walk the soil of this Earth with Me. Yes! It’s true we are different in our color, in our race and in our Creed.

But what does all that matter when every one of us bleed the same. Do We not all bleed red? Or do we?

So listen close to my words.

I am Calling All humans. For I have an urgent message to deliver. On Behalf of the oppressed and impoverished and voiceless people of the Earth.


For wounded souls speak.


Do you wish of a world with only hate and injustice?

A world with no love nor any tears for anyone’s bloodshed.

A world in which the wrong is seen as the right and the truth is known As the lie and the good are looked at as the bad.

Do you wish of a world where people blame God for the doing of evil Despite the fact he has given us everything to live equal?

A world where people remain silent against the oppression of people.

But I’m sure you wish of such a world because isn’t this the place you Call home?

I mean just how can you want to keep enjoying your time, while Knowing there are children in this world bleeding and even when you Waste your money on useless things, when you could have given to Someone in need.

Wake up O humans for humanity is calling to you in need!

Just look at Palestine where prayers are used as weapons against those Thieves who hid behind their guns and tanks shooting them at the Palestinians as if it’s “no big deal.”

Wake up O humans for humanity is calling to you in need!

Masjid Al-Aqsa awaits for you to set it free!

And surley Wallahi: By God we will set it free.For freedom is the only Language we warriors of God know how to speak.

Speak! Speak louder and raise your words with rhymes of justice and Peace that even the most toughest and most stubborn of mountains Will submit and salute you before your knees.

For your word is deep like the wounds of a child. The temporary Wounds on their skin but the everlasting wound on their heart as they Waited for your help.

O you whom see’s with your heart instead of your eyes. Let’s call upon Our lord as one nation our lord whom gives and gives whom Generously. O lord Al-Karim give us Noor: light in our hearts to make us Aware and O lord send us Arc Angel Azrael just too bare witness of our Prayers. For we dream to be amongst those you love.

O my dear sisters and brothers that I call upon in sincere need!

The screams are screaming for you so take heed!

Your triumph is there, turn no more blind eyes to the impoverished and Oppressed but beware for the strongest weapons in the entire universe For amour and protection is not that of blood and of steel but rather a Voice for the voiceless and a Mother’s prayer.

For there is no barrier between them and God.

فَقِيرٌ خَيْرٍ مِنْ إِلَيَّ أَنزَلْتَ لِمَا إِنِّي رَبِّ فَقَالَ

Fa qaa la Rabbi inne lima anzalta ilayaa min khayrin faqeer (24) Al-Qasas

“My lord indeed I am for whatever good you would send down to me in need.”

And indeed God will give a mighty victory to those who stand for justice!


By: Tanisha Ahmed

4 years later in Syria.

16 Mar

As I spend another anniversary in the country I decided this year to spend it with those who matter the most. The civilians. The displaced families internally.

Amidst the ruin of Syria I sit with Abo Omar & his wife Marwa while their 2 boys rummage around the room they have taken shelter in. They lost their home and eldest son Hamoud nearly 2 years ago when a government mortar hit their civilian populated area. Marwa was badly injured and has since recovered. This is the 5th building they have had to move to within Syria in the past 2 years, a sad trend that many can relate to within the country.

I first met Abo Omar over 3 years ago. Laughter was plentiful, his children chanted & danced among the crowds pulling me in to join them in dance with the joyous excitement of what they saw as a festival atmosphere. Vibrancy gleamed within the crowds, drums echoed through the streets with song that was haunting, the re-established flag to represent a Free Syria weaved within the people with a unity that many saw as unbreakable.

‘I was proud to be Syrian before, but not today. Look at what we have done to our country.’ As Abo Omar titters he proceeds to opening his Facebook on the cracked screen of his aged mobile. ‘Look, we even fight over what day the revolution began.’ he shows me the talks many have been indulging online about the date and origins of the revolution.

Abo Omar spent close to a year with the then Free Syrian Army, his commander and once friend from 10 years prior was whom he pledged his allegiance. They fought fierce battles to free Homs together, they wept together over their lost brothers in battle, and celebrated together over few minor victories they would achieve back then with what little weaponry they had.

‘I could not agree with him on many decisions, the first was when he wanted us to torture and kill prisoners we had from the army. I did not join the Free Syrian Army for this. I joined to protect my children, my country.’ Abo Omar had then decided that this would not be the continued path for him.

Abo Omar started working with others to help bring in medical supplies, food and other items urgently needed in the besieged city of Homs through dangerous smuggling routes across from Lebanon that was extremely limiting to what they could bring.

His then commander has gone on to become a Jabhat Al Nusra leader, now fronting battles for greater land and power.

The family depend on what little handouts they receive through locals working to help with food and clothing. They live on minimal water they share with 5 other families in the large home that was long abandoned with its true owners unknown. Families have each taken a room and made it their home as they wait; they do not even know what they are waiting for.

Marwa, Abo Omar’s wife, once a school teacher now spends her time trying to interest her children in education to occupy their minds. The boys do not go outside and do not attend the local mosque or schools that have been arranged by some which have been known to entice recruitment &a rather extremist teaching of Islam.
‘It is not safe for our children to go outside. They like to take boys their age and teach them very bad things. God willing something will happen soon so we can live in peace again.’ Marwa continues to tidy their small room as we talk to form a sense of normality in the discomfort of her obvious despair.

They do not hold passports, one of the biggest problems facing the people of Syria making it extremely difficult for them to travel, leaving them little opportunity. Abo Omar paid $3500 to obtain passports selling what little belongings they had after losing their eldest along with their home; part of that money was their wedding rings they sold; however like many from Syria they never saw these passports nor the people who they arranged the deal with.

‘What can we do? Beg on the streets of Turkey or Lebanon? What can we do? If I had the money I would even try to send my wife and children on the boat to Greece.’ Abo Omar pauses to sip his coffee to mask his shaky voice from the depth of emotion.
‘I had a small shop. Children would come after school and buy sweets. I was able to feed my own family, now look at us.’

4 years later and a country left predominantly in rubble. Millions of civilians are left with little to no voice; a voice veiled by the armed struggle in the country.

While this story is a simple one on some levels within the complexities of this war; it is however the largest story of the country, it is the story that vast numbers echo.

The voice of millions of civilians who are left displaced and with the branding of refugee is the voice that is off the true Syria and I give my life on it that this voice is a beautiful one of care, a kindness that cannot be found across the globe with ease, and it is a voice that deserves our human affection across the world.

The Light of Hope

3 Feb

Yasmin Al Tellawy:

I am sharing this as a repost from my friend Alex, one guy with one massive heart… so beautiful. Thank you Alex for everything always.

Originally posted on poemsforsyria:

I was inspired to write this poem today. The person who inspired me is my friend Yasmin al-Tellawy, a journalist and humanitarian:

I’ve been moved beyond words before,
I have friends who have lost loved ones,
And sometimes I wonder how much longer I can keep going,
How much longer I can keep the hope up,
Because the situation in Syria is so dark,
So grim,
So bloody.

In spite of the heartbreak,
In spite of the tragedies,
And in spite of my worries,
I stop and think,
And I realize,
That I will never lose my hope,
And that the light will never be vanquished.

I’ve seen this light,
Ever since the Syrian Revolution began,
And it was a light that has continued to shine,
No matter how much it has flickered.

And sometimes it has flickered,
Like when I heard about Hamza al-Khatib being tortured to death,

View original 1,068 more words

Untold emotions in Syria…

29 May

“Now there is only blood and murder.” – the poignant words delicately spoken by Mohammad in Syria as he recalls his memories before the troubles of Syria. “My days were so beautiful with my friends, studying and working, we laughed so much.” ; reminiscing yet unable to evoke a smile with such thoughts.

Mohammad had joined the revolution from the beginning and has battled in some of the fiercest battles in the country. He also helps at a police station trying to bring order and a policing system to be respected by all in the region; a gruelling task amidst the chaos of the country.

Protest in early 2012 in Syria.

A different energy; a protest in early 2012 in Syria.

I first met Mohammad over 2 years ago, and have watched the deterioration to his personality and mind frame. A young man in his early 20’s with boyish charms, full of energy, laughter, and joking often; he now carries a colossal weight of overwhelming emotions he can only hold internally. His smile forgotten and health taking a rapid deterioration with a diet of cigarettes and coffee in excess with little else; like many of the men in Syria now.

As the crisis in Syria rages on, the focus is all too often on the horrors of the war lacking anything in-depth on the emotions being suffered within the people of Syria living through this nightmare. Young men like Mohammad seem forgotten in all of this, and are only allowed to be strong men, fighters, warriors of their country; they suffer through torture, violence, scenes of devastation more than anyone in Syria, at times they are subject to sexual violence within their torture suffering severe humiliation, when they are not in suffering they have an abundance of pressures placed upon their shoulders; caring for their family, providing food for them, shelter for them, being the figure of strength is all that is expected of them with the cultural pressures, only now there is the added pressure of the most devastating crisis in our world.

Countless people have lost their lives in this war in Syria. Countless men have lost their lives fighting for their country in what was a revolution that began over 3 years ago. A branding of ‘Jihadi’ as an umbrella term is the perception they know is given to them forbidden to hold any emotion. These same men who first picked up arms done it to defend their area, to protect their family, yet the progression of this crisis in Syria has escalated past anything they imagined changing their lives into a never-ending horror story; that is for the few who are left from the beginning in 2011.

It is no longer a battle against a regime for them, it is also a battle against an ever-increasing list of armed groups, extremists and their fellow country men who even once fought by their side. Battles they never envisioned with the unity that was once so strong against the regime in the beginning. Many have lost their lives, left the country to try to have a life seeing no future in Syria for now, or turned to extremist groups.

These men once had lives the that echo globally; nights with friends full of laughter & memories to be recounted again and again, tales of love; flirting with girls in university, exchanging love notes with girlfriends in private, dancing through the night at their friends weddings, celebrating their holy holidays with grand family gathers, and all the typical things that young men do in their life across the globe. Many would have no clue of how to use a gun, let alone be able to name the many kinds of weapons as they do now in Syria. While these are all relatively simple things I speak off in day-to-day life, these also have serious repercussions on the mental state of these men with all the pressures they face today.

It is not uncommon now for many to wish for death to come knocking on their door now with different reasons; naturally the extremists are often speaking of death to come their way, as do all fighters as a general in the culture being ready to die proudly for the fight they choose, I am sure terms such as ‘Allahu Akbar’ with videos of beheadings will sadly come to the minds of people who may read this uneducated in the culture to understand my point in what I am trying to convey. There is however a much more serious reason and that is from PTSD, depression, exhaustion and all the stress that they have to endure, stresses that have also been the product of some suicides in men from Syria, with suicide being something far from common in the culture.

The extreme exhaustion of the tragedy they are witnessing daily is simply too much for them, sleepless years have now gone by, never-ending trauma in their beloved country, and those far distant memories of the joyous life they can just about recount now are all simply too much to bear.

Through all of this Mohammad holds a kindness in his heart, an innocence and a deep care for the people in his country. He has not turned to corruption or any criminal activities. He asks me to please see a family he knows who really have nothing and shares just how awful it is for them as there is no man left in the family and they struggle too much, “Is there a way to help them?” he pleads to me.

Mohammad is a young man suffering terribly through this. Determined to help his country, yet at a loss now on what the future shall be, far too grown beyond his age with pains that will never leave him, knowing that his future is in turmoil whether the fighting ends tomorrow or not.

If friends have not been killed, they have left, changed to extremist thinking breaking bonds that once existed, some friendships unravelled earlier in the revolution with the pressures of choosing legions to the regime or a free Syria.


Another day, another death. His close friend of many years, from before the revolution has been killed.

“I just wish to die to not feel anymore pain.” expressed in a state of sheer exhaustion as Mohammad leaves to his friends burial.


(Real name has been changed to be Mohammad in this blog)


The Paris Marathon; Completed!

13 Apr

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


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 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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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