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Laporan oleh:

Syrian refugee children discuss the challenges of a fractured life, and convey their hopes for the future.

Despite being confined to the informal Bar Elias tent settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, sisters Nagham, seven, and Raneem, eight, say they still try to make the most of their new life. Raneem says: ‘Every day we draw pictures of flowers and houses, so our family can have beautiful things to look at. We miss our home in Syria, but we are together.’ As for the future? ‘A doctor,’ says Raneem. ‘An artist,’ says Nagham.

 

Five years since the start of Syria’s war, millions of Syrians are struggling to survive as refugees, not knowing when they will be able to return home – or whether they will have a home to return to.

The Danish Refugee Council offers a glimpse of life through the eyes of Syria’s children, as they seek refuge in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. The children discuss their hopes and dreams as they struggle to make sense of their new, fragile and confined worlds.

 

Seven-year-old Bushra is the sole survivor of a bomb that struck her home in Homs and killed her family. With her grandmother, she made the long journey to Lebanon, mostly on foot, with nothing but the clothes on her back. She now lives in a Danish Refugee Council centre in Tripoli, Lebanon. Asked what she likes most, Bushra lists her grandmother, spaghetti and school. ‘I like French. I want to be a French teacher.’

 

He may be just 11, but Carmel is on track to become a hip-hop star. ‘When I think about Syria, I feel sad,’ he says. ‘Rapping helps take away my bad mood. I want to be famous and for people to know what is important to Syrian people like me.’ Carmel has lived in a refugee centre with 20 other Syrian families in northern Tripoli since his family fled Homs three years ago. With no secondary education available to refugee children in the area, Carmel’s education will soon come to an end.

 

‘Picking flowers.’ After some thought, this is the answer four-year-old Omayama gives when asked about her favourite thing to do in Syria. ‘I can’t find any flowers here.’ Along with her cousins, the softly spoken four-year-old remembers collecting camomile flowers from the hills near her home in Idlib every morning to give to her mum. Omayama now lives with her family in a plastic shelter in Akkar, in northern Lebanon.

 

Raheem, 11, a Syrian refugee from rural Idlib, lives in a small lean-to shack with nine family members in Akkar, in northern Lebanon. Every day, he helps his mother to look after his siblings and takes himself to school. He said he is studying hard to one day become a lawyer.

 

Twins Elad and Thaweel, both four, live with their parents and three siblings in a small, rented apartment in the impoverished Nazzal suburb of Amman. They twins are adapting to a confined, urban life while still struggling to make sense of the violence they have fled. ‘I hope they can experience happiness and what it is like to live a life of freedom,’ says Ahmad, the twins’ father.

 

Five-year-old Hussein said he feels the happiest when looking after his family’s sheep flock. ‘In Syria, we had many sheep and lots of fields. Here, you have to be careful that the sheep don’t run away,’ Hussein says. He now lives with his extended family in an informal settlement in Halba, in northern Lebanon, along with several dozen other families from Idlib. As traditional shepherds, Hussein’s family has relied on the income made from selling sheep’s milk, meat and wool for generations.

 

Becoming the man of the house is not a role that most nine-year-old boys have to consider. But for Abdul Almonaf, helping his mum take responsibility for running their small two-bedroom flat in Amman, and assisting his younger sisters and brother has become his everyday routine. ‘I have watched his moods change from being a happy boy when we lived in Syria, to being very serious. He worries that we have no heating and little food. Boys should not be having these thoughts,’ Abdul’s mother said. Abdul has not seen his father since he left in search of employment more than two years ago. As for the future, Abdul hopes to be able to play football like he did in Aleppo, and to become a doctor to support his family.

 

Asked how important it is that Lamees grows up knowing she is Syrian, the young girl’s father, Omar, responds: ‘Very. Knowing who you are is vital. I always try to teach her about Syria, our land, our family, and our culture. She is living an uncertain life, so it is even more important that she knows who she is.’ Lamees, who was born in Jordan, ‘is living a different life fromwhat we knew’, Omar adds. ‘Before our children had space, fields to play in and a very social life with our relatives. Now Lamees spends most of her time in this small apartment with just her parents.’ Lamees says she hopes to go to school and make lots of friends.

 

Halad, 13, has only one dream: to go to school again. For the past two years, he has not been able to attend school, as secondary education is not available for refugees in Jordan’s Zaatari camp. Halad worries that he will forget everything he has learned. Each Friday, he plays football with other children on a dirt pitch. He also seeks learning opportunities at the Gerda Henkel Siftung School, where he and fellow Syrian and Jordanian students learn about their history and shared culture. ‘It makes me feel happy to know new things,’ says Halad, who one day hopes to be a police officer.

 

Ali, seven, smiles when asked about his friends. He boasts proudly that he has three good friends: Hamudi, Sherou and Aski. They all live in small, two-room tents in the Kawergosk refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq, along with more than 10,000 other Syrian refugees. Ali said he does not have any toys; instead, he and his friends play hide-and-seek. If he could get toys, he says he would like some small cars. Ali does not go to school and has lived in the refugee camp for two years since his family fled violence in al-Hasakah, Syria. Asked what he remembers about Syria, Ali says it is ‘sleeping outside’ on warm nights.

 

Ahmad, nine, has not seen his older brother Mohammed for a long time. He knows that four months ago, his brother made it to Denmark with other Syrians, but he has not sent any money yet. Ahmad lives with his mother, five siblings and 83-year-old grandmother in a tent in the Darashakran refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq, having fled violence in al-Qamishli, Syria, in August 2013. His father left them, unable to deal with their destitution. Completely dependent on aid to meet their daily needs, Ahmad said he works hard at school so he will one day be able to get a good job to help support the family. He plans to become a maths teacher in the future

 

The frightening night 13-year-old Amina and her family were forced to flee the only home they ever knew in Kobane, Syria, is etched in her memory like it was yesterday. Amid brutal fighting, her parents rounded up Amina and her seven siblings. Their comfortable home was destroyed, and the construction company her father owned is also gone now. Since October 2015, Amina has tried to make a new life for herself in Iraq’s Qushtapa refugee camp. She keeps up her studies at school and is proud to be among the best students in her class. Amina says she hopes she will see her friends in Syria again, and hopes to one day become an Arabic teacher and teach children in the same situation as her own.

 

Jihad, 11, says he works hard at school, but he was a better student in Syria because he could concentrate more there. The school was an actual building and not a tent, and his head was clearer – war and the future did not fill his thoughts. Despite this, Jihad says he is determined to work hard to become a doctor. He also likes to enjoy himself, playing football, hide-and-seek and riding his bicycle. His family lost everything when they fled their home in Derik, Syria, for Qushtapa refugee camp in Erbil in August 2013. ‘I would give my flesh so they could have all they need,’ Jihad’s father, Hissam, says of his children.

 

Ask 11-year-old Ramadan about his future, and he does not hesitate to respond: ‘Germany.’ He fled Ashmili, Syria, two years ago, and his new life involves hanging out in the family’s caravan at Iraq’s Basherma refugee camp. Although he went to school in Syria, Ramadan is struggling in his new surroundings. He refuses to go to school, saying he is picked on by other students and the teacher. In the future, he would like to get back to learning about computers and playing football. He used to like both ‘very much’

 

Although 14-year-old Nashmir does not get to see the close group of friends she left behind in al-Malikiya, Syria, she chats with them online every chance she can. Although the teenager says she has made new friends in the refugee camp where she now lives, she admits they are not the same. She spends a lot of her time drawing her thoughts and dreams, and hopes that one day she will become a teacher.

 

Four-year-old Omar thinks of himself as a traveller. In his short life, he has lived in Aleppo, Syria; Cairo, Egypt; Antakya, Turkey; and next month he will call Norway home. He says moving around has meant he can make friends easily. He travels with a small backpack that holds some books and his clothes. While he likes to travel, he says it is sometimes hard to play football well when you cannot practise all the time.

 

 

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