In December 2014, I was granted permission to spend time at the Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. The camp is home to more than 80,000 Syrian people currently displaced by the on-going war in Syria.
While at the camp, I met many refugees who expressed a desire to share their story with me. Even though we came from different worlds and spoke different languages, listening to these stories first-hand created a connection between us. We laughed and cried together as human beings… as friends.
The experience made my relationship with the conflict personal. I began to question why so little was being done to help and what I could do to make it better. Following the Paris terror attacks, I witnessed the increase of violent rhetoric towards the Syrian refugees.
It became clear to me that perhaps the best solution was to create a platform for the refugees to share their stories and re-create the same connection I had made, and to share that connection with the world.
The Syrian refugees all have a story to tell.
It is my mission to make sure these stories are told, and more importantly, that people listen.
WHAT IS THE SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS?
To briefly explain, as part of the Arab Spring in 2011, peaceful anti-government protests took place in Syria. The protests quickly turned deadly as the government responded with violence and a civil war broke out.
A rebel group of defected soldiers joined forces calling themselves the Free Syrian Army as a means to fight the government of Bashar al-Assad. While the FSA fought Assad, further violence escalated between non-secular and Islamic fighters as well as between a variety of ethnic groups. As a result, extremist groups took advantage of the chaos to create their own caliphate within the country.
Unfortunately, it is the general population of Syrians who are affected by all three entities: the Assad regime, rebel groups and religious extremists. From chemical weapon attacks, torture, and even mass executions, all sides are committing war crimes against the civilian population.
Seeing no other option, millions of peaceful Syrians decided to escape the country with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The sudden influx of refugees across Europe and the Middle East has created political and cultural tensions between nations and has left millions displaced and struggling to survive. What started as a civil war has now become a proxy war that affects us all. There is no end in sight.