21 Sep 2015

Refugee crisis: Hany’s story

Hany Al Moliya never imagined he’d become a refugee. But three years ago, after members of his family were murdered in their homes, he and his remaining relatives fled the country.

21-year-old Hany Al Moliya has always had grand plans for his future. Back in Syria, he taught himself English by reading poetry and he had just enrolled in Homs University to study communications engineering.

Hany achieved all this in spite of a debilitating eye condition, nystagmus, which means that his irises are never stable. Anything beyond the reach of his arms is out of focus. As a result, Hany has always lived in the world of his imagination, where he is not inhibited by his vision. Hany is legally blind.

When the Syrian war engulfed the city of Homs, Hany’s hometown, his cousins were killed and his home was destroyed.

Hany and his family fled to neighboring Lebanon as refugees. Overnight, their lives changed completely. They found themselves one of the millions of Syrians who had lost their homes and their futures. Their home was now a tent in a small camp and life was focused on daily survival.

But instead of giving in to the harsh reality of life as a refugee, Hany began taking photos. He saw foreign photographers coming to the camps and each time he watched them walk away. Hany decided it was time the world saw the reality of life in a camps, from the inside, from someone who lived there.

The camera helped Hany to see the world clearly, framing for him all that would normally be out of focus. Suddenly, his world has become defined and sharp. And Hany discovered he had talent. He began to make a name for himself as the ‘photographer from the camps’.

But after three years in the camp, amidst growing tensions in Lebanon and the realization that their situation could never improve, Hany and his family applied for asylum to Canada. And they were accepted. Their new home was to be the capital of Saskatchewan, Regina.

It was a dream come true; a chance for all the family to rebuild their lives and take back all that the war destroyed. For Hany, Canada meant medical support for his eye condition and the chance to finally go to university.

‘Hany’s Story’ is a portrait, in five episodes, of an exceptional young man and his family, following their journey from the camps in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to the heart of the Canadian prairies. Hany’s Story is a story of courage and resilience, set against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Syria and the trail of exile that continues to snake its way across Europe.

Hany knows that in the end it was his eye condition that saved his family and allowed them to gain asylum in Canada. But he cannot forget all the people he left behind. They live on in his photos.

Edited by Lisa Cazzato Vieyra
Filmed by Marc Hofer
Produced and directed by Zahra Mackaoui – @ZahraM5225

Hany’s Story was produced in association with The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees