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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

Desolation in Refuge for Syrians

20 Jun
Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

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

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

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

Photographer -Yasmin Al Tellawy

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

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

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

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

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

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

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

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

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

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

Rape in Syria

2 Mar

Rape has always been a dominate weapon in war. Rape in any circumstance is a horrendous, disgusting act; when you add the violence in rape that happens within a war, it brings it to yet another sickening low act that is beyond the imagination. Rape and sexual abuses are committed frequently in Syria, however are highly under reported.

Rape has always held a stigma attached to it of shame in the Middle East and through religion this is heightened. Rape holds a stigma wrongly attached to it worldwide of course. In the Muslim culture at times with rape cases, the victims can often be forced to married their rapist, have their children, and do not have a voice in this matter. They are given a feeling of shame. Rape in war currently from Syria has brought a business of selling these victims as brides, trafficking rings have been set up, a money-making trade has been made out of these victims from Syria.

What I will also point out as many people misunderstand Muslim culture, this is not how every Muslim feels about rape, or deals with the crisis happening with this, like any culture and religion there are the good and bad within it. There are Muslims assisting these victims as much as they can in the right way too.

Rape in Syria is currently happening not only to females, but males also, however, males will never speak about this matter tragically to get the help they require.

Girls suffering from rape; and I do want to emphasise girls are in need of serious help, some cases are even as young as 7 years old (I have personally dealt with one case at this age), with age of cases I have dealt with mostly from Syria are predominately between 11-20 years old. Not only are these girls raped there is a great deal of violence within the rape, many have already witnessed horrific atrocities happening, some have witnessed their own loved ones being killed and are then raped, abused and tortured in highly intrusive sexual manners. Brutality which includes being prodded with a hot rod in their genital region, mice being used are commonly reported as being inserted into these victims, and many other disturbing, and brutal methods of torture are being used to harm these victims.

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Many girls are scared and try to hide it from their own loved ones where possible, they are living with this shameful feeling within themselves. The suffering they have gone through with this horrendous situation, to then in some cases to find they are pregnant at times and are also being sold as brides.
These victims feel worthless, like they are unable to marry, have children, they are feeling like their life is over and in many cases wishing for death to knock upon their door as they can see no life ahead of them. Some organisations are providing what they feel is assistance by selling these girls as brides as a charitable act.

I have two particular cases that are strong in my memory always. One being what I previously touched on briefly in my last blog, and another being a girl so scared from her religion and family, even though I knew her own family would have assisted her, she turned to religion heavily, not allowing any men to see her at all, and covering everything, even her hands if she went out anywhere, her own mother did not wear a headscarf on normal occasions. I was lucky to be able to meet her to assist her in the appropriate way so she no longer had to keep this all in her mind.

We have problems now with trafficking of Syrian girls, some due to them being raped and deemed worthless, some as their families feel they are doing right marrying them off from a life in a refugee camp. There are many reasons for this. There is a major problem of girls being used as prostitutes, girls being dumped when unwanted in certain Arab countries and thrown into brothels. The problems happening currently are out of control and need better assistance from our world to be stopped.

Can you imagine being a child, having watched your family be murdered to then be raped repeatedly & graphically tortured in the most revolting ways imaginable, to then be possibly sold as a bride or used as a prostitute? I am sure you fail to imagine this or connect to this on any level. I remember turning 13 and recalling worrying about whether my school bag would have been cool to fit in with the cool kids, worry about my hair style, running around in fields picking wild raspberries. I am sure most of you have many childhood stories of your ‘worries’. Can you imagine being back in that age and thinking of the graphic rape you have just suffered through, the loved ones you have lost and feeling unable to speak, and then if you possibly do speak, the chances are you will end up in a wealthy Arab state as an extra wife, or used as a prostitute. This is what is happening in many instances right now as you read this.

Rape is now being committed by both sides of the fighting in Syria. It is used as a weapon of war for many reasons. Reasons that I would like to think the majority of us will never be able to adhere to such comprehension. What we need to focus on primarily is getting these victims the help they need, not judging them upon their sect of religion from Syria, or which side may have committed the crime and so forth.

Sadly I personally cannot stop rape crimes being committed in our world, but I do know what we can do as humans who should care for humanity and take the appropriate steps to dealing with rape in war. We can assist these victims in the appropriate manner without judgements of religion, culture or any of the barriers in our world.

If you have been a victim of rape, you are not a person who should hold shame in any way. You need to know you are a beautiful being in our world and have not done anything wrong. You are someone important in our world. You do not deserve to be treated as a victim who should be ashamed. You deserve the right support for what you have had to tragically suffer through. You deserve protection, care to recover mentally and physically, care without judgements.

I have worked with quite a few rape cases from Syria in the past year, my mind cannot comprehend the trauma these girls have suffered for the simple reasons being I do not, and do not ever wish to understand the minds of these sick individuals and groups committing these crimes. I do find it hard to sleep most nights knowing the monstrous acts that have been shared with me by many victims. I can only think constantly, and I hope many of you will agree with me; what is wrong with our world? Why are we allowing these crimes to happen? What more can we do?

I ask you to focus on what is happening in our world. Syria is facing one of the worst crisis in more recent history. There are many issues happening across our world, I ask you to take action, stand up against these matters, make a change, we can all make a change no matter where we are.

We are all doing something wrong in our world if victims of rape in war are being sold as worthless beings. We are all doing something wrong in our world if we are not opening our eyes & hearts to this matter. We are all doing something wrong if we do not take action to make a change.

Rape is only one of many war crimes being committed in Syria of course, but is the most sensitive and is lacking support. We need to focus on the assistance of victims from the crisis in Syria, and this is not being done enough.

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Children are suffering internally from being witness to barbarity without the appropriate treatment for their future, women without support living in fear of sharing what has happened to them, men who have been tortured in such explicit conduct that bury it so deep internally, the list is truly endless, never mind the injured who are not getting the support they need either. There are so many problems not being addressed sufficiently from the crisis of Syria.

There are organisations of course set up to assist with these victims of rape; however, it is proving ineffective for several reasons, and also depending on how you look at the right way of deal with rape may be.

5-10% of the crimes happening in Syria are reported. There is so much more happening that is not being shown, and we need to work together for humanity to show these crimes, assist with these matters and bring help in the right way. I am shocked constantly speaking to people, general citizens in various countries surprised that I am speaking about a war in Syria who say in shock ‘are they still having problems?’

Please take notice of the crisis in our world.

This is the most sensitive topic within the war to deal with; the point is that we can deal with it and it is time we did.

Truth – Peace – Love.