Tag Archives: Children of Syria

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.

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

Child Labour – the Future for Syrian Children.

7 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Valley, Syrian Refugees, Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy

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

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

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

Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy

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

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

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

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

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

Syria : Male Anguish

16 Jun

As it is Father’s day, I wanted to focus on a few issues the Syrian men are facing. While none of this is new, it is just not spoken about as much as I believe it should be.

Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy - Syria

Syria – Men in Syria laugh and joke together, humour being something Syrians are well-known for.

Today thousands of children are without their father’s. Today thousands of children from Syria are not only without their father’s, but many have been witness to graphic visions of their father’s and loved ones deaths.

While we are all aware many men who have lost their lives to the conflict in Syria have been soldiers, giving their lives to fight for their country, fighting for what they see as protecting their family; there are thousands of men who have lost their lives while trying to just stay alive and not partaking in any activity of the war.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy  - Syria (3)   Photography - Yasmin Al Tellawy - Syria (1)
Syria – Some of the young men in Syria

Countless numbers of men are currently under arrest in Syria, their fate unknown, suffering horrendous torture that is unspeakable off for the majority of men should they survive. Some men have disclosed details of their ordeals of diminishing humiliation  in prisons in Syria with me, shocking accounts of crimes past any form of comprehension.

When I am with men in Syria, I am yet to hear someone not wish for death instead of being arrested and tortured because they know just how bad it is. As I am sure most of you know, many will always say they keep a bullet for themselves; I even met one man of the Free Syrian Army who shot his best friend as he was being dragged away by a government militia known as the shabiha, telling me that his best friend would have done this for him also – to take your own life, or that of a loved ones just to escape torture is a small glimpse into just how much suffering these men undergo.

Not only are these men tortured to extremes that no-one will comprehend unless they have experienced such a horrendous ordeal, they are subject to sexual violence. This is something that few men will ever speak off feeling such shame, but it is used rather commonly within torture in Syria. While it is no secret that men are subject to such violence, it is just spoken off rarely. Many men in Syria share with me that they even believe that men are raped as much as women in the war if not more.

Men lack the support to deal with such abuses, men are to be seen as strong humans especially in the Middle East so support networks are lacking for men who have suffered such horrific crimes.

Some men have been known to committed suicide since the violence in Syria, mainly due to the fact that they are unable to provide for their wife and children anymore. Unable to help them, unable to find work, unable to protect them.

Men of Syria are extremely determined unlike most cultures, Market Street of Zaatari Refugee camp in Jordan being a prime example of the entrepreneurship skills of the Syrian men, however opportunities are lacking.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy (61) Photographer-YasminAlTellawy (60)
Market street, Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

The men of Syria are not only subject to severe torture and sexual violence they also bear all the pressures of providing for their families. The young men are also facing pressures for choosing to not fight in Syria. Many men do not wish to fight in Syria, but many are increasing finding a problem with this telling them they should be in Syria fighting for their country.

I remember close to the beginning of the war in Syria being with young men who had joined the Free Syrian Army, watching them as they chanted songs of revolution on their way to frontline battles, but I could see their fear underneath it all, I could see these young men’s worries behind their eyes. Now I meet the same young men, few off whom are still alive, if not severely injured, and they are hardened soldiers, a natural progression of any war of course, but I do wonder what their future shall be if they are lucky enough to stay alive to see the end of the war in Syria; A country steeped in deep history and culture.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy  - Syria

Syria – Brothers in war. Both suffered serious injuries while fighting for the Free Syrian Army.

The long list of issues facing men, women and children of Syria is ever-increasing.

A generation of children are to grown up without fathers, mothers, and without both parents in many cases. A generation of children who will never know their fathers past tales of war and tragedy.

Syria is a human tragedy. These are human beings, fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, friends, loved ones, people just like you and I in this world. People whom once had lives like you and I, jobs, homes, everything just as you and I can have an opportunity off. Syrians seem to have become numbers, daily figures of death, injured and tragedy. One life is too much to be lost in war, but in Syria there are a minimum of 93,000 (according to official UN numbers) killed, which is most definitely much less than the actual death count to date, never mind those missing, under torture, and of course the millions homeless and having fled the country.

Photographer-Yasmin Al Tellawy  - Syria

Syria – Once a university student, turned Free Syrian Army soldier shot in the neck, now paralysed from the neck down with some movement in one arm only


Talk of weapons, politics and all that is without questions extremely crucial to discuss is pushed to the top of the priority list with humanizing the war in Syria secondary. These are lives that are being destroyed and lost every day. These are lives of human beings, each soul has a name, a story just as important as the other in this world.

Photographer-YasminAlTellawy

Children of Syria in Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan