Samar chose the word “Jaffa” (pronounced “yafa”). Jaffa, which today is part of Tel Aviv, is the city from which most families here in Balata come from, before being made refugees in 1948. She chose this word because she wants the young generations to know where their real homeland is.
Maryam (14 years old) chose the word “Soul” and wanted me to write it in English. She told me that the soul is the only part of a person that remains truly free. People can take her freedom away, but her soul will remain free.
Hassan was a teacher back in Syria. His life changed when the war started and he migrated to Irak, but he still has the same mission. He now teaches geography to teenagers of the refugee camp, and asked me to paint the word “Future”, because the next generation of young Kurds is what he cares about the most. I painted the word on the local school here in the camp where students are about to begin their end-of-school exams.
“I choose to share the word “JIYAN” (=LIFE in Kurmanji). My family and I left Syria because we wanted to live. It’s as simple as that.”- Hani, 15 years old.
Fars chose the word “Qamişlo”. It’s the Kurdish name of his city, the capital of Syrian Kurdistan. Qamişlo was founded in the 1920s by Assyrians and Kurds who fled the Ottoman Empire during the Assyrian genocide. Today, a century after the foundation of the city, a large part of its population is now living as refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan in camps like this one, creating new refugee settlements as history repeats itself. However, Fars and his family are still hoping of returning to their land once the war is over.
ASTI (the word for “Peace” in Kurmanji) was chosen by Shidan. She is the mother of 9 year old twins Lava and Hossein. They used to live in Damascus where Shidan’s husband Kaniwar worked as a baker. Here in Kawergosk Refugee Camp, Kaniwar still works as a baker in a small shop on the main street. He has no hope of going back to Syria, he wants to carry on baking cakes somewhere in peace.
“I love Damascus, but we had to leave when the civil war started in Syria. We went to Dayrik in Syrian Kurdistan for a year, but then had to leave Dayrik too and come here to the refugee camp in Iraq. It’s not been easy but we’ve stuck together as a family and our love for eachother is what has helped us. No matter what we’ve been through, we’re a happy family. So I want you to paint the word “LOVE” on my house.” – Yafa, hairdresser and mother of 4.
Yasmine and Shivan (here on the picture with his sister in law) wanted me to paint the word “Salaam” (=peace) on their house. They are both from Syrian Kurdistan but didn’t know each other before migrating to Iraq. They met here in the refugee camp as they were neighbours, and married 2 years ago. Now they have a house of their own, and are wishing to build together in a peaceful environment.
“We all need love !” – Usum, Erythrean refugee and nightclub owner in the Jungle refugee camp.
“My name is Sali, I’m from Teheran, Iran. I left my country because I had no freedom there. The Islamic regime has a special police force spying on everything we do. I’ll never go back to my country, now that I have left, I’m on the black list.”