A Heart for Refugees
The Syrian war has affected millions of people both young and old, forcing them out of their homes leaving them with nothing and nowhere to go. I have been deeply saddened by these devastating events. Being an artist, I decided to utilize my skills to create portraits of refugees to spread awareness in the hope of encouraging others to help, and discouraging racism and negative preconceptions about immigration.
It is difficult for those unaffected by the Syrian war to understand the destructive consequences it has had on civilians. Over 11 million Syrians have been killed or forced to flee their homes due to severe bombing and crimes of rape, torture, and corruption.
Thousands have died making the treacherous journeys to reach shelter under refugee camps. Men and women of all ages brave the terrible weather conditions, wading through rivers and across the ocean in the hope of finding a better life.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that women and children make up to 80 percent of the inhabitants in refugee camps. After escaping from the horrors of war, they are faced with new horrors of the camps. Women are especially at risk of exploitation, dealing with sexual harassment, human trafficking, and violence.
Tens of thousands of refugees are trapped without food, water, or medical care due to humanitarian agencies either not having enough resources or being denied access to reach them. Pregnant woman go days without eating and children grow sicker each day. In these desperate times, many women are now supporting their families alone for the first time in their lives.
Refugees are stuck in limbo while they wait for asylum. Unable to work or go to school, many dream of getting degrees, jobs, and following their passions. In numerous cases women were granted asylum, raising their hopes, only to later be rejected because of unjust suspicions. In the United Kingdom an average of 62 percent of women’s asylum claims are rejected each year. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed, “Europe is being overrun by refugees who threaten to overwhelm its economy and security,” and miles of steel fencing have been built along its borders. Dozens of United States’ governors announced they would not accept Syrian refugees in their states. And after Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union, Calais refugees who have been waiting for years to join their families 20 miles away in the United Kingdom fear they will not be able to complete their long journey.
When selected refugees are finally granted asylum, many face racism and hate crimes in their new homes. In Hungary, the government has paid for billboards, newspaper ads, and radio messages that link Muslim refugees to a variety of threats, including terrorism. Various groups in the United States spent over $200 million on promoting fear and hatred of Muslims—in the past year there has been a 500 percent increase in hate crimes in Florida alone. In the United Kingdom, Muslim hate crimes have risen by 70 percent in the past year. Innocent refugees are unfairly judged as terrorists, when terrorism is what they are risking their lives to escape from. After going through all the hardships and tragedies of war and refugee camps, refugees should be welcomed and empathized with rather than mistreated. In my opinion, the very least people can do is treat refugees, along with the worldwide Muslim community, equally.
All of my artwork featured in this article as well as additional pieces on my website are for sale. I will personally be donating all proceeds to Hand in Hand For Syria – a nonprofit aid agency who delivers aid directly to the refugee camps. Please contact me directly for art purchases.