Ten years is a long time to be waiting for peace, for safety, for a way home. For millions of Syrians, the return to normalcy remains a distant dream. An entire generation of children have grown up only seeing war, and many adults have been living in limbo over the last decade. Their suffering and hardships are compounded by an unprecedented year of the pandemic: nearly 70 per cent of Syrians refugees live in poverty, and over 60 per cent are food insecure.
Despite the challenges, many refugees and displaced persons refuse to give up.
These are their stories of resilience and new beginnings.
To Build a Home
Ali was 17 years old when we met him in 2015. At home in Syria, Ali was the sole breadwinner for his mother and five siblings.
When the war started, his family was forced to flee, with no idea of where they would find safety next.
“We now live in this small house,” said Ali, pointing to their accommodation. “There is no electricity, no drinking water. The insulation is poor. But this is the only place we can afford.”
Ali found a new job in one of the small packaging factories where he works six hours every day. The income barely covers the daily food and drinking needs of the entire family. There is not enough money to send his younger siblings to school.
“I dream of a better future,” he said. “Where I can have a sewing workshop, where my young brothers can get all the things that I was deprived of, where they go to school, and I find a better house where we all live together. I dream of a time when the war is over.”
Six years later, we still have the same dream.
Peace of Heaven
For many Syrians, a life without war is the ultimate dream.
“Maybe because we were deprived of it, or because we suffered so much,” said Ali, a Syrian refugee who resettled to Switzerland with his family in 2019. “It is very nice to know that there is a country that promotes peace.”
“Switzerland is truly the land of peace. Upon hearing Switzerland, you think “peace”. So, for us, Switzerland is peace, peace is Switzerland,” he said.
His daughter Rama was equally optimistic, but for slightly different reasons.
“We’ve only seen the snow once in Syria,” says Rama. “Once it snows in Switzerland, I will throw snowballs at my brothers. I packed a pink snowsuit, so I am ready to go!”
Rama’s mother, Aya, has also been celebrating the move to Switzerland.
“My children will have a future: they can study, get an education,” said Aya. “Every time someone mentions Switzerland, I feel I’m going to the country of peace. Really, to heaven. I tell people I’m going to heaven.”
Free to Love
Majd moved to Cordoba, Argentina in 2019. Since arriving in Cordoba, he has become fluent in Spanish, graduated from a Paramedics course and dreams of becoming a nurse. As a member of the LGBTI community, he is now able to have relationships with other men safely and free from persecution.
“I feel more comfortable and freer here than in Syria. I have the right to be and love who I want. My family just keeps growing here in Argentina. It helps that I love getting to know people and I am surrounded by people who treat me well. Having a community calms me down and helps me to live in the moment. I now know that I can live in any place, anywhere, and I will make new friends.”
Honey and Hopes: The beekeepers from Aleppo
Arife’s love for beekeeping stared a few years ago on a farm with her husband, Ali, in a village outside Aleppo, Syria.
“In the beginning, I thought it was strange when the bees would try to attack me, but later I began to really like it,” Arife recalls.
When the war reached their community and destroyed their home five years ago, Arife and her family had no choice but to flee – leaving behind their beloved beehives.
Arife learned new agriculture skills in an IOM training in Turkey. It was Arife’s first formal training in raising and tending beehives. She received nine beehives, purchased five more on her own, and made enough profit to donate surplus honey to others.
“I like the feeling when I wear the bee suit and see how the bees are flying, how honey is dripping into the jars. Some people admire me for being brave enough to work in this profession and others are surprised when they see a woman who is not afraid to work with bees,” she says.
Arife plans to continue expanding her honey business.
Now in its tenth year, the crisis in Syria continues to affect the lives of millions. An estimated 6.5 million people are internally displaced country-wide, while another 5.6 million Syrians remain as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Affected populations face mounting challenges due to prolonged and protracted displacement, poor living conditions, restricted economic opportunities, and limited humanitarian access.
Regional economic volatility and political tensions as well as the spread of COVID-19 have further exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities of affected populations. With the conflict in Syria still ongoing, and conditions generally deemed non-conducive or unsafe for return, most refugees are likely to remain in their host countries in the short- to medium-term.
Today, IOM launches an international appeal for USD 198 million to provide humanitarian assistance and resilience support to displaced Syrians and host communities inside Syria and across the region.
You can help us do more.
Donate today to Support Syria