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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Islam…

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.

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.

Funeral1

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!!

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

Homeless, Scared & Alone as a Young Syrian tries to live in Istanbul

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.

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 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)

Helping Humanity, Open your Heart for Syria.

14 Jan

Recently, I have been going through files from Syria in 2012. I came across this picture and it brought back so many memories.

Image
I had gone on yet another trip inside; I was planning on 1-2 days in Aleppo after Idlib, this was at the beginning of the troubles in Aleppo, before it went to mainstream media, when it was still very much in the hands of the regime and not the opposition. I decided to go into the centre, things were very different at the time upon going into the centre, I won’t go into much detail of it, but, there were no Free Syrian Army groups going back and forth at the time, everything was silent of this, everything was with regime checkpoints in the centre, not FSA checkpoints.

About 8 days later, after no communication with those few on the outside who knew what I was working on inside, no emails, no phones, nothing, let’s just say I had landed in a far from safe situation, I was out to Idlib border again,  back to being able to breathe, feel safe for that time frame. I won’t go into great details of everything day to day.

I let kids use my camera when resting, in family homes and so forth, it brings them a moment of joy from the boredom the poor children have to suffer through with no schools, no real freedom for play time and these things kids need. What I didn’t realise was this kid had listened to me speaking about what had happened and was paying close attention to the chats with the adults in the group. He took this snap, this was the moment I had phone communication again and relieved a lot of very worried people on the outside who were starting to think the worst. It was such a joyous moment and this brought me smiles as I reminisce over that trip. It then brings me great sadness.

During that trip, I had witnessed some of the most horrific scenes to date in Syria for me. Things that still haunt me, still shock me, things that I would wish no-one to see or experience.

It started with a 12-year-old girl who had been raped horrendously by what is known as the Shabiha, a militia group loyal to the Syrian regime. The Free Syrian Army had rescued her, she had witnessed her family murdered in front of her own eyes. They took her and continuously raped her, they used mice as part of shaming her, and prodded her with a hot rod type of item. Now, I won’t go into the tragic details of this crime, but you may find it hard to believe. How could anyone do this to a little girl I thought as she shared her horror with me, myself in the moment even in so much shock trying to believe her story. With just her and I in the room, she was being treated for her wounds, she was crying, wishing for death as what man would ever want her, she called herself a monster now, she could never have children, her family are all gone, what did she have to live for she questioned me, the tragedy that was before me was beyond comprehension. I tried to comfort her, I tried to calm her, she lifted her gown and blankets from the hospital bed she lay on and shouted at me to look at her disfigurement.

I had lost any right to question her story she shared with me in that moment as I fought to hold back my every emotion in front of her.

Rape is not something spoken about openly in the Muslim culture; it’s difficult for someone to speak about from any culture, but no culture as difficult as the Arab nations.

Rape is happening more frequently than can ever be documented in Syria currently, including men suffering sexual abuses.

Continuing that trip, there was tragedy after tragedy in all the regions I travelled to. Everyone not without their tragic story to share, places of terror, fear, the unknown that could happen at any moment with the fear of helicopters at the time circling as we would await them dropping out rockets. Descriptions I could never put into words, nor could anyone of what the situation is like inside.

These scenes are only worsening inside now. These tragedies are worsening daily, yet we are approaching 2 years of the troubles in Syria and it only continues to deteriorate while it seems humanity is lost in the world.

I only share this tiny glimpse into one of my trips into Syria as looking back at this file, seeing this picture, and remembering it all, as I do every trip I have made inside, I never forget everyone who helps me, everyone I meet, I just don’t share much publically about it, but I spoke to this little boy this morning and asked him if he remembered the pictures he took on my camera, he said yes of course, he loves my camera he said, and he asked me if I am happier now. I asked him why he asks me this, he said because when he met me I was very sad even though I was laughing and playing with his family. That saddened me even more that this boy, this family that I have not seen again since that trip remembers me, and that little boy takes the time to ask me how I am and if I am happy while his family are in great suffering, lacking food, further lives lost in their family while they lack clothing, blankets and so forth for winter.
I could share a thousand stories and more, as can anyone who has been inside, or any Syrian first and foremost who has suffered – each story is just as important as the other, every human life counts, this is not a statistic; yet this is how most know Syria and it’s tragedy as statistics.

This same trip one of the many families I had met with, a family who took me in for shelter for a short time and fed me, I had given a little girl bracelets as a gift, I always try to carry some small items I could give as gifts to children, I had 2 bracelets she liked, nothing special but she adored them, she asked me what they said, one was peace, one was love, (If you know me, it’s my motto through life and any jewellery I am wearing frequently has this written on it in some way…), so I say to her, Salam (Peace) and Hubb (Love). She said it was so beautiful, and we laughed as I ate with her and her family. I put them around her wrist and she asked me to promise to come and she her again, Inshallah (God willing incase you are not familiar with Arabic terms) I said, and I looked to her family and asked them why are they not leaving as they were in a very dangerous area and it was only a matter of time before it would be hit, I feared for them. This little girl was so precious, so smart, so loving, there was something about her that stuck with me, I think it was because she reminded me of myself when I was her age, she was so beautiful. She came running to me in tears as I was leaving, she was scared I would not visit her again and missed me already she said, and she gave me back the bracelets I gave her. We all were so surprised as the kids love to get gifts and she adored the little bracelets. She said she wanted me to wear them because she wants me to keep the Peace and Love with me as I travelled in Syria to be safe and wanted me to always remember her. After a lot of bickering and giggles, I put the bracelets on and she made me promise her I would never take them off. I never took them off since then. 2 days later I was in a different region and was told that the village was hit badly and there are many injured and killed including many children. Of course my first instinct was to think of Alaa, that little girl, that family who took me in. I requested to go back to that village to see what had happened, my heart sank as I returned to a now destroyed village. I went to the house that was where I sat days previously and laughed with a family, that house was rubble now. We asked around what happened, tried to find information, most fled to refugee camps so I presumed they had left there too. A man in the village remembered me, he was a neighbour of the family and had sat in for dinner with us, he told me to come with him, he took me to a graveyard, to Alaa’s grave. That little girl, just days prior I laughed with was killed as she was buried in rubble in her home. To this day I can’t believe it, but I don’t look at those bracelets the same anymore and I certainly never did take them off, until recently as they were getting badly damaged so I wanted to protect them to make sure I always had them, I replaced them with a small peace & love bracelet I can always wear to remember her.
Peace & Love
This is a frequent story in Syria sadly. It just hurts more as it would any human I would like to think when you meet the people personally, it adds a different level of upset to the situation.

The beauty in the hearts of the Syrian people is one that I cannot ever falter. It is not one that anyone will ever understand unless they have travelled to Syria, or lived in Syria or been working inside. Being any outside to the religion, yet being brought in and welcomed and assisted is something that is lacking great understanding to the outside world. Muslim’s get put under one big title in the world by those who lack education on the religion or live in little bubbles of Fox watching news turning a blind eye to the real world.

refugee1

Right now there are millions of humans suffering across our world, from many countries, cultures, religions. Right now though, Syria is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis possible.

No-one can imagine the suffering the people are going through, the tragedy that has happened and is happening. You see about 10% if you are lucky through the media. A lot more needs done.

We are here on this earth for humanity, to help one another in need. It is not about religion, not about race or anything alike, this is about humanity.

I am asking you for humanity, to please help in any humanitarian way you can. Please open your eyes, please donate what you can – financially, clothing, blankets, anything else to a local group that you trust is doing great work inside and / or in the refugee camps surrounding Syria. If you need advice on trusted groups in your country please get in touch I will be happy to guide you as there are sadly many who are profiting from war as always happens and cannot be trusted too, so please be sure to verify donations carefully. As some of you may know, I am starting my own organisation, and have received many donations of medical supplies, clothing and so forth to get through to those in need. I will not be ready to launch my organisation official until March roughly, but if you do wish to pass anything through I can direct it through me if this helps for those who know me. My organisation will be a different way of involving the world in bring aid to those in need, it will not be limited to Syria, it will be a worldwide organisation, however in the first year the prediction is we will only be aiding Syria through it.

Be thankful for all you have, for that phone call you were able to make today, for that cup of coffee you made yourself that you must have every morning or else you will have a conniption. Be thankful for life, for your children, your wife and your husband if you are lucky to have found love in this form. Be thankful for that bowl of cereal you had, for that lunch date you are going to have, for that vacation you are going on. Be thankful for the water running freely from your tap, for the joy of being able to sit in comfort and read this right now without worry.

Please don’t use the excuse well it’s not my country, they are not my family, they are not my people. This is disgusting to say and sadly I have heard this too many times for my liking. We are one in this world; we should always be reaching out a helping hand to another.

We live blessed lives, even your worst day is your best day, believe me. You are alive, that is enough to be thankful for, and with that, being alive means you are a human in this world and our duty as human’s are to help one another in need.

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I cannot fathom on any level what it would feel like to lose my child, to lose my father, my mother, my loved ones through horrors of war, and in such horrific and painful circumstances. I cannot nearly imagine how I would feel if my child was raped, tortured, beaten to death and worse. I am sure you cannot either. I have seen what it feels like for others first hand to face this, others who once had a normal life, a husband they would kiss goodbye to as they left to work, kids they would open the door to as they came home excited and playful after a day at school begging to go play before dinner, your everyday life, taken away from you, and if you are lucky to be alive still, you get to go and live in a dirty refugee camp, lacking all forms of aid.  Think about it, open your eyes.

Live a good honest life, please be more than what the world is conforming to be, cheating, lies, destruction and so forth. Please be more. Stand up for humanity; stand up as a human being. Spread Peace & Love, this starts in your heart and spreads one little bit at a time.

I share little glimpses here and there of small stories just to give a glimpse into a humanised side of things in Syria. If you are on my mailing list I share a lot more, but will from now on try to blog a lot more…

Be Truth, Be Peace, Be Love, Be Inspiring.

With Peace & Love,

Yasmin

Atmeh Refugee Camp, Syria.

11 Dec

Atmeh Refugee camp, Idlib, Syria.

I want to share a in a small and highly condensed manner a visit to Atmeh refugee camp. Bare in mind when reading this, I have visited Atmeh on countless occasions.

FILE00046 copyAtmeh Refugee Camp, Syria

Current estimates from Atmeh on their count of refugees here are around 12,000, however, that varies depending on who you speak to – showing just how disorganised this camp is.

There is no official count of people staying in this refugee camp. There are no records of those at the camp, and there will be no change in this any time soon.

There are various aid groups, organised by individuals, made up of Syrians around the world raising funds, collecting vast amounts of medical supplies, clothing, blankets and so forth for this camp, I myself have even attended some fundraising events for these things, yet inside the camp these efforts are not to be seen.

I spent about one hour just walking around the camp at first to gather my bearings and understand what was happening here.

As I walked through the camp, I could look to my far left and see a man urinating in the not too far distance, a lady squatting to use the toilet behind a walk erected as some form of bathroom facility, but of course lacked any privacy. In this area, the stench of faeces & urine was a little much for me to handle.

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Part of the toilets set up in Atmeh full of faeces / A puddle of urine gathered from the make shift toilets

On continuing my walk, we see a young girl of 6 crying, the man with me at this moment spotted her first and we rushed over to her aid, we asked her what was wrong, she was lost. She had been wandering lost trying to find her mother at their tent again after going to get some food. We spent some time calming her down and locating her family; she was not far from them, but again, just a small indication of the disorganisation.

As anyone will know who has entered a refugee camp, you are fast to gather a vast number of followers, the children gather in great numbers and follow closer than your own shadow, my shadow started calling for me to follow them, and so I did. They took me to another section of the camp where a family had found a snake in their tent. The families begin to share their stories with me of their encounters with snakes entering their tents, a common occurrence for many.

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Some of the children in the refugee camp in Atmeh

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2 examples of the snakes being found in the tents of refugees

As they share their stories of escape from regions across Syria, yet another family arrives after a long journey from Syria. They women are already in tears upon arrival and reluctant to speak with me as they were so scared & confused with what has happened to them. One lady tries to speak with me, but turns her back to me mid-sentence as she could no longer contain her outburst of tears. The men of the group come to share to me what has happened, more family members had been lost, their homes shelled and destroyed, everything lost, understandably a highly traumatic time for them as they arrive to a stench ridden camp after falling asleep in their own beds the previous night.
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This lady had just travelled from Hama to Atmeh, she had to turn away as she broke down in tears after trying to gather her emotions to talk to me.

One another walk through the camp, I am drawn to a woman sitting alone on a small rock outside her tent. I could see the distance & deep sadness in her eyes as she stared into a dark abyss. I had to sit down with her to speak with her; her 4 young children appear to join us as we talk. The lady had come from Homs 12 days prior to our meeting, she travelled from Homs to Hama at first where she had other family after her home had been destroyed, sadly that day there was an air attack on this village and was left with no other choice but to try to get to Turkey to seek refuge – 4 days later after a tiring & terrifying journey she was in Atmeh at the camp. Loved ones lost, others left behind with their destiny’s unknown. The lady appeared to be in pain also so I enquired as to what was wrong. She had kidney stones and was in a lot of pain. After many visits to the field hospital they were unable to give her anything to help her, I took it upon myself to get her the medication she needed. After a short trip to the now rather bustling village of Atmeh compared to my first visits long before there was such a thing as a refugee camp, I had the medication from a pharmacy there, 300SYP (Around $3.50) and we were on our way back to the camp again 30 minutes later, the only problem was it took another 30 minutes to find her again through the maze of tents.

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Interviewing the refugee mentioned above, I gave her children each a lollypop, the smallest little thing, yet the gratitude and joy it brought is indescribable. The true appreciation, care, & love of the families in Syria is a beautiful experience that no-one can understand truly until you spend time with them to understand what I am talking about.

As night fell, I spent time at the field hospital; a young nurse struggled to deal with the amount of people turning up at moments asking for bottled water because they were sick from the water, appearing with sick babies, children malnourished and very ill in appearance. I commend this young man for all he is trying to do, he stays at the camp, and helps out of the goodness of his heart.
I was compelled to spend a few hours there assisting matters and learning from him his experiences at the camp. Lack of medication the largest problem, medication being given for the wrong problems another.

It all led me to wonder, where on earth is all this aid that I keep hearing is being sent in, yet I don’t see it ever there? Something doesn’t make sense that’s for sure and without question there is as great disorganisation on the outside as the inside.
You can see limited amounts that have been donated previously from groups in various countries, tents, some medicine, when asking the majority living there they have the same answer, they don’t see any aid. There are various banners that have been hung by groups to show their advertisements of what I presume are their work, but I don’t see anything else past the banners.
On driving through the village, I see 5 British Ambulances sitting in a condition far from how they would have once left their destination, sitting on driveways where FSA and others reside, but certainly not in use as ambulances.

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An FSA leaders new car in his driveway / Just one of the ambulances sitting for the wrong use.

In Atmeh there are at least 6 opposition groups, I am reluctant to call them all FSA (Free Syrian Army) groups, as they most certainly are not. The number of groups there continually rises.

One small village of importance in many ways. A safe haven for many escaping terror from their home villages; also a haven to foreign fighters in need of housing in Syria.

I have known Atmeh for quite some time, but sadly, I have watched some men change from the more innocent, poor men they were, to the growing powerful, yet uneducated in what they strive to achieve.

Various leaders plead their cases of we need help, we need aid, we need money – nobody helps us and so forth. These same leaders now in possession of good cars, from BMW’s to Mercedes brought in from outside of Syria, the same men who did not even know how to drive months prior. Dressed smart now, equipped with good weapons, their houses getting repairs and luxuries added to them. The sad problem with this is that there are many groups who have nothing, who need help, but finding who to trust is not an easy task nowadays in Syria until you see things with your own eyes.

One of the leaders was unable to afford a pack of cigarettes I was told before the revolution, now; he has a rather nice BMW in his drive. How? Well, he helps to find housing for the foreign extremists entering from Turkey, that’s partly how he made his money. That day, that same leader had held a gun to another leaders head ready to pull the trigger in an argument the both declined to share more about.

I am told stories from those working for the opposition about some aid, trades being made for weapons and so forth. Such things would not be shared with me of course by any leaders.

By all means, please don’t take me wrong. I am not here to pick sides. I care for the humanity and truth in all of this and nothing more. I only share what I see, what I know in truth and have found with my own eyes. This will anger many, I’m sorry for that, but facts are facts.

If the groups could get their act together in Atmeh they could be doing great things. Most of the young men are bored, sitting around smoking and on the internet when they get a chance for access. Some of them want to help the refugees more, want to build toilets, help in many ways, but they are stopped from doing so by those higher up, due to the clashes of various groups in Atmeh. Other members in the FSA say the refugees damaged the toilets (2 in particular that were meant for thousands to use) and that some steal and other tales that no-one had anything to actually back up other than tales that were Chinese whispers. Some young men now just happy to be on a weekly salary.

Understand one thing from this if you are not fully up to date on the matters of Syria. This is just one village, one example, by no means are all the FSA like this, each village, each area of Syria has its own different situation happening. The only common factors amongst the areas of Syria are that numbers of groups and different kinds of groups in the opposition are growing continually.

There are countless numbers of displaced internally. Each has their own tragic story to tell, each in dire need of help. There are many good people trying their best inside and outside of Syria trying to help, but it gets outweighed at times by the corruption inside. It is a very difficult thing to contain your emotions inside when interview those in crisis and seeing all that you see inside.

Sadly, like any war situation, it is the innocent families who end up in the greatest harm, there are those who get poorer and those who gain greater finances within war, a tale that I can only personally wish would stop happening in our world.

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The steady stream of refugees flowing into Atmeh

Memories of these moments at the various camps I have been to, of being trapped through shelling, of trying to recover those from rubble, of dodging snipers, mortar shelling… the stories are endless, are memories that never leave.
But those faces you see of the family members weeping over their lost loved ones, humans – people like you reading this now dismembered, in pieces from explosions, beyond recognition, burned and dumped after torture from a corrupt regime, little children in a puddle of their own blood as it flows from their own neck, women raped in horrendous ways along with men, both too ashamed to speak about their experiences, children afraid to sleep even after a long period of safety, the countless wounded in horrific manners, again – endless stories, but ones that the whole world needs to open their eyes to. I don’t post the graphic images just to respect those who cannot handle look at them. Well, as much as I respect your views, I ask you to look at what is happening to other humans in our world, take a moment and be thankful for all you have, the safety you have, the family you have, some may think well it’s not my country, not my problem. I ask you to rethink that, we should be as one in this world, we should be helping for humanity, we should always have our eyes open and remember that everything in this world has a ripple effect.

Always think of those in need across the world, it is our responsibility for humanity to help one another in this world.

Hate.

5 Oct

More lessons through life… A personal journey.

3 years ago I was still living in Los Angeles, so unhappy with the culture around me, desperately seeking depth, meaning, love in my life, seeking guidance in some form.
I was still acting and modelling, amongst too many other careers, working with different charities to help those in need, talent management, and starting the journey into documentaries and so forth. Earning good money, but so unhappy. Now, I am on a higher path in life I feel, and am so grateful for where it is and has led me. I know my work now benefits, will benefit further and his giving some help back into this world in any small way.
3 years ago on an evening out, I had also met some so lost in this world beyond anything I could ever imagine, someone delving so deeply into the false pleasures of this world to mask their own truths and confront their soul. Like most in Los Angeles I had met, they were another on the list of lost souls in that culture deluded by money, sex & power of which I held no interest in. They could not handle the rejection like many ego’s and chased and chased.
Long story short, I decided to look through this false life, believing in the good of others always, believing there was good within, and believing in their story of their life I later discovered was untrue. We ended up on a journey together, one I have recently come to learn was anything but what I was led to believe it was. This is just one example of many paths we cross in life, this story is just relevant to my life right now.
I owe great thanks to this soul though. I thought I could help them, guide them to a better way of being, living, of love in purity and innocence, things lost in this world and so seldom valued. I accepted them for all their past I find morally disagreeable in many ways. I failed in this and they are no more changed through time of our knowing one another. Venom pouring through every vein of their blood, their soul so tainted by hate from any damages they experience through their life. Running at every chance from any truth, leaving a trail of destruction and enjoying it as they do. A thread was pulled and unravelled the whole mask of who they were through life, truths I never thought I would have to deal with. So scared of truth, so scared of being one person, living many lives with different souls that could never cross paths in case the contradictions of their being are every further unravelled. I saw through all of this, and never bestow judgement on others for their rights, wrongs, goods or bads of living. It is not for me to judge, it is for me to learn through experiences. I accepted this soul into my life, as I always accept anyone into my life, and only ever issued forgiveness and understanding where I could. I could see the beauty in their soul that could shine through if they did not hold themselves back and lived openly without fear in life. A soul so consumed by a far past of youth that does not and had not appreciated the beauty in the here and now to strive for a beautiful future, beauty for them was trying to relive in a past daily, along with financial gains and sexual indugences.

They forgot fast the moments I was there in the true manners that matter, it’s like memories truly washed from their mind, not even just forgotten, it’s like they never existed. Tears from being financially broke and I showing that money meant nothing of true value and money do not equal care, and how good that felt, memories like opening to the world, memories of showing what truly matters, memories of feelings of belonging for once in their life, memories which inspired their own work, journeys that were so precious. Now all tainted by a delusion of hate. Deep inside though, they know the truth through the dark image they have painted, or at least I would like to keep believing.
I have faced many struggles in life, all of which I am grateful for. This soul has yet experience life in entirety I feel. Never had to struggle, never had to know what it is to make someone for yourself, by yourself, always had a great family of finances fed to them which gave great rights in their eyes to disrespect others whom don’t hold such blessings in life. Yet, I would never wish for this, I love that what I am working on now has my heart, my soul, my sweat, my every own finance I have struggled for through hard times to ensure I create it. I’m proud to say this at my age.
There is no greater beauty in life than growing with another soul, no greater beauty than someone loving you, caring for you, being there for you no matter who you are. No greater pleasure than a deep connection with someone to walk through this life with, but to fear such depth and run and turn it into venom with a blade that only harms oneself is just sadness to being I will never allow myself to be.
I have sought meaning on why we encounter such souls in life, all different souls in life; I firmly believe there is meaning to our encounters with everyone in life. We all learn lessons, or at least we should and put those good lessons to practice.
I learned what it is to be hated in life for nothing but giving love out recently, to be hated so deeply to have someone want to cause I harm in any form possible, to spend their time doing so, to spend their time feeding a poison instead of releasing it to look at truth.
I understand why people like this do such things in life, I understand why this has been done now.

This journey has taught me of hate, a toxic poison so harmful in life. It has taught me to never hold an ounce of it. It has taught me that it only harms that soul and hate breeds hate at the end of the day. I journey through my life very open about me. My rights, my wrongs, my beliefs, and I do this for me, I hold no care what another thinks of me, I seek no approval, as I know the right souls in life will care for me as me in my entirety.
I won’t cover all details of my personal being. I will only say that right now hate has caused me great harm in so many ways, but all ways of which I forgive in entirety, all of which are leading me greater to the paths I should have been on sooner.
I started my life from absolutely nothing. Literally. My home, my belongings, have all been consumed by a great fire of hate. If only you knew the full details, some do of my situation personally now. But, I bear no hate, no scars, only love sits in my heart and I shall never change in this. The more venom thrown my way, the more love I feel grow within as it keeps me so far away from ever wanting to be a person holding any form of hate. It’s such an ugly thing to wear.

With all of this, I offer my thanks for that hate, for teaching me who I was 3 years ago, seeking love, light, peace in life, seeking truth, seeking a better being. I discovered love in its purity. I discovered innocence in life, I discovered how precious our body, our soul, our mind, our hearts are, how these things are not to be given readily to anyone. I discovered what matters in life, true bonds, and true care.

I created much from nothing before in my life, and again I do so now. The struggle in life is all part of the journey; the struggle is where we learn. I now, more than ever have learned how important it is to banish hate from our world, to banish corruption, to expose truth. I dedicate my life to this now and only this now.
People can live in false pleasures, delve into a world of filth, sex, drink, drugs, prostitution, hate, damage, money, but deep inside this is not a soul who has peace and love within.
I wish all lost souls in life to find their way, to find what matters and never let that go, not run, to not fear life, to not fear love or anyone around, to live as you. Find meaning to life, we are all here to help one another in this world.

Sometimes the more love you throw at a venomous person, the more they spit back. Eventually, a day will come when they learn differently, we just must never become eaten by this flame, we must always give love and blessings to these lost souls.
That soul who taught me of hate, who taught me a lot in life, I will only ever offer my love to be sent their way. I will only ever keep them in my thoughts and wish they find what peace and love is and release a life’s worth of venom pent-up inside and start living purely and truly, and one day deal with the matters of his own child that he continues to run far away from, denying any existance of his own son, his own flesh and blood.

I will always hold my door open to them in a time of need, as I would any stranger in this earth if I am in a power to help. This is what life is about. Forgiveness & love.
I hold old-fashioned values & morals in life, I believe our bodies are so precious, I believe we meet one special person along our journey to fall in love in, a different kind of love of connection in body and soul. I still believe all of this as I get older. I believe waiting for this is worth more than anything, worth more than false pleasures than only shall eventually end in regrets. That bond of purity with another is more beautiful than anything in life.

We are not here to harm each other, we are here to help each other in life. From the harm I see in Syria upon others, upon little children I lack understand of how another can kill in such ways, but I also see it as the same as hate I have seen bestowed upon me and harm to bring me and a child also. There is no place for this in this world.

Nothing is greater than love in this world, and love has always and will always pull me through anything in life.
In this past month, I have met incredible souls from all walks of life, all religions, all cultures, all countries. It has been so beautiful. There is so much beauty in this world, and it must not be forgotten, we must try to bring beauty into the hearts of others.

I don’t want to sound like a hippy or anything, but spread love, peace, joy… It’s truly all that matters.
I have made many mistakes through my life myself, what matters is I can recognise them, accept them, and learn from them.

We all go through journeys in life, we must learn as we go, grow to be better souls, learn of great values, morals, the important of truth, of being one’s self, the important of love and cherishing those who show it. Respect yourself, your body, your mind, your soul.
I hope one day I can write again on this from the view of a soul swimming in hate whom has seen light. What beauty. I know it can be.

With Peace & Love, forever and for always…

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Yasmin x

“It is impossible to fall out of love,love is such a powerful emotion,that once it envelops you it does not depart.True love is eternal..If you think that you were once in love,but fell out of it, then it wasn’t love you were in..There are no ‘exit’ signs in love,there is only an ‘on’ ramp..”