A decade of crisis, told by 10 Syrians

It’s been 10 years since the start of the ongoing crisis in Syria. UNHCR spoke to Syrian refugees  about their experiences, aspirations and dreams for tomorrow.  

© UNHCR / Ahmed Ayad


1. Esraa, 23 

Photo: © UNHCR/Lilly Carlisle

Esraa Ahmad is a Syrian refugee from Golan Heights near Quneitra. She fled in 2012 when she was just 16 years old and initially faced a lot of challenges in starting a new school and life in Jordan.

Although her dream as a child was to study medicine, the lack of scholarships in this field forced Esraa to think of another future. She enrolled in Amman Arab University to major in computer engineering and graduated in mid-2019 after three years of studies facilitated by UNHCR’s DAFI Scholarship program.  She says that DAFI has supported her in many aspects, not only financially, but mentally, by continuously motivating her to make something of her life.

“Those years were the best years of my life. I got to know people who will remain in my life forever. Jordanians, Syrians, best friends,” Esraa says.    

2. Amal, 9 

Photo: © UNHCR/Bassam Diab

Nine-year-old Amal, originally from Hama, is internally displaced with her family within Syria. When she was just 18 months old, Amal lost her right leg when a shell exploded in the bedroom where she slept.

The family moved multiple times in search of safety, before finally settling in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and former industrial hub. 

3. Kanaf

Photo: © UNHCR/Ahmed Ayad

Kanaf is a Syrian refugee living in the northern Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Sometimes she dreams that the past 10 years living as refugees are just a nightmare and that she is still living back in their hometown in Syria. 

4. Abeer

Photo: © UNHCR/Bassam Diab

Abeer is a mother of five from Deir Hafer in rural Aleppo. Over the last 10 years of the crisis in Syria, she has been displaced multiple times. Her husband was killed on his way to buy food 

Soon after the security situation began to improve in Deir Hafer, she decided to return to her town. Abeer found her home destroyed.

After struggling to feed her children, Abeer heard about a UNHCR community centre where small business grants were being offered to support vulnerable families. She applied and was successful, and now runs a small mini-mart. 

5. Nabiha

Photo: © UNHCR/Pedro Costa Gomes

Syrian refugee Nabiha Mohamed sits for a photograph in Cairo. Originally from Homs, Nabiha has four children and has been living in Egypt with her family since 2013. 

6. Zein, 20

Photo: © UNHCR/Pedro Costa Gomes

Twenty-year-old Syrian refugee Zein El Abidine is based in Cairo and dreams of becoming a footballer, one day. 

7. Nermiin

Photo: © UNHCR/Max-Michel Kolijn

“I’ve liked cooking since I was a little girl. I always used to help my mother in the kitchen.”

PalestinianSyrian refugee Nermiin opened the Ali Baba café after joining her husband Mohamad in Tallinn, Estonia. Nermiin and Mohamad, both Palestinian refugees who lived in Syria, began searching for a venue to open a café as soon as they arrived in Tallinn, but nobody wanted to rent to them. 

For more than two years, Nermiin cooked orders in her own kitchen until finally, they found a place tucked away in a local shopping mall in Tallinn’s biggest suburb. Now they make Syrian and Mediterranean food and pastries like brazak, qurabiya, khafeh and baklava 

8. Sanah, 11

Photo: © UNHCR/Pedro Costa Gomes

Eleven-year-old Syrian refugee Sanah Mohamed is originally from Homs. Sanah has been living in Egypt with her family since 2013. 

9. Nabih, 10

Photo: © UNHCR/Pedro Costa Gomes

Cairo-based Nabih Mohamed sits for a portrait photograph. Originally from Homs, Nabih has been living in Egypt with his family since 2013. 

10. Kenan, 34

Photo: © UNHCR

Kenan arrived in Jordan in 2013 when he was 27 years old. His university studies were completely interrupted because of what was happening in Syria. Kenan’s family was in a bad financial situation, which made applying to any university in Jordan very difficult. In 2017, he received a DAFI scholarship and started his journey into the media industry. Today, he is about to graduate and is researching scholarships so he can continue his education.

We are refugees for seven years because of the crisis in Syria. We were forced to leave because of brutal killings and random arrests. In short, studying journalism and communication sciences was and still is my passion. Because I believe in the importance and sensitivity of this profession and I know how much it affects the masses.”  

After 10 years of crisis, Syria is one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies and 13 million displaced Syrians are in desperate need of relief. For more information, please visit our Syria 10 page.

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