3 Dec 2014

Teenager, widow, photographer: Syrian refugee Fatima

At 19 years old, Fatima is already a widow, mother of three, victim of the Syrian war and refugee. At the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan she has been using a camera to capture her view of the world.

Two years ago Fatima watched her husband and brother detained and beaten by Syrian soldiers at a checkpoint near their home. Fatima and her family, including her two young sons, had already been forced from their home in the Syrian capital Damascus by constant shelling.

I don’t ask for anyone to have mercy on me or take care of me. I only ask you to look at this picture. Fatima, 19

A few hours after soldiers detained her husband, her deepest fears were confirmed – he had been killed and his body put on display. Fatima, who was pregnant with her third child, paid to be smuggled to Jordan with her husband’s family.

At the refugee camp Fatima took part in a UNHCR-led photography workshop run for young refugees by a photojournalist. Her haunting and moving photographs, and her descriptions of them, are below.

The first image, below, is a staged image to depict one of Fatima’s dreams.

Click on the images to see a larger version.

Fatima writes: “This picture is the most important picture because it is the only way I can tell the whole world: ‘I don’t ask for anyone to have mercy on me or take care of me. I only ask you to look at this picture, which shows my reality and tells the story of my life. A life which became full of funeral shrouds and grief.’

“The kaba is black. Nothing compares to it’s beauty, but this coffin is white and nothing compares to its ugliness. After so many crises in life, and the ones wrapped in white, in my dreams I can only see my son shrouded in in white.”

Fatima: My wish. “To escape from the worries of life. A human being cannot tolerate the worries we are stuck with. I wish to go back to the age of a child who doesn’t recognise anything of life but tenderness.”

Fatima: “I wish to go back home. Being away from home made me a body without a soul. To go back to my mother is becoming a dream.”

Fatima: “Human claws want to rip out my eyes.”

Fatima: “Yes, our life is hard and filled with difficulty. We are in an unbearable crisis. Despite that we still exercise and build skills for sports.

“We will improve ourselves. We will run, climb fences, lift weights, play football, ride bikes that no one cares for. We will even pull rope. We won’t give up. We will prove to the world that we are still children, adults and old men. We are Syrian refugees.”

Fatima: “My family will play and have fun. We will go further. Even if thousands are too lazy to help the refugees we will make it through these critical days. A brighter future awaits.”

Fatima: “This is the most important picture to me because it is for my husband who was killed.

“‘You are the cause of all crises. You are everything in my life. I have to see you even if you are far from me. Inside of me there is a picture no one but I can see, a fire burning my heart a hundred times. I can’t tolerate its flame anymore. I have no choice but to picture my agony and transform it into a little picture the whole world can see.

“Fire burned my husband and now it wants to burn me. This crisis and pain I have endured. This anguish didn’t want to have mercy on me. It burned my husband. Oh I hear his voice in pain and in my dreams. Only fire. It wants to burn me and eat my body, so my soul could embrace his soul.”

Fatima: “He is the grandfather of this family. He was the one who produced hope for the family. After the crisis he became a stranger, even to himself.”

Fatima: “I’ll put all difficulties under your heels so the smile remains on your face.”

Fatima: Sorrow is the bed our children sleep in.

Fatima: “A Door to Freedom. Birds express the children, because children dream of freedom like birds. Children imitate the bird’s rebellion.”