Syria's Lost Generation

Syria’s Lost Generation

An estimated 5 million Syrian refugees have fled the conflict. An even larger number remain displaced inside of Syria. From an estimated pre-war population of 22 million over half of them are now living in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. It is not just the basic necessities of food, water and shelter that are required. According to UNICEF there are 5.6 million children surviving in refugee camps throughout Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Once the war has come to an end the country will need to rebuild. However, with almost a decade of ongoing conflict there is a growing educational crisis which is in danger of creating a lost generation of young Syrians without a basic education and the key skills that will be required to rebuild their country and economy.

Since 2013 I have visited refugee camps on the Syrian border, Turkey and Lebanon to better understand the ongoing conflict and to provide aid and financial support were possible. There is always a high number of children in the camps. Without access to schools they are forced to work as manual argicultural labour or take to begging on the city streets. In order to remedy this crisis a number of free Syrian schools have now been founded. The teachers themselves refugees are supported through private donations from the international Syrian community and UNICEF. I worked with the first Syrian free school in Istanbul just as they were starting out to provide visual materials that were used to illustrate and communicate to the Syrian diaspora that support was now available to them at no cost. Syrian children no-longer need to be begging on the streets or spend their days selling goods to drivers at traffic lights. The school was also first to have a dedicated child therapist working with those young students most traumatised by the devastating effects of the terrible conflict in Syria. It is now the largest and most successful free Syrian School in Istanbul with thousands of children now learning key skills in preparation for the war to end.

Day break in the border town of Kilis. Dozens of families prepare to spend another day living amongst the trees and bushes of a public park which now functions as a makeshift refugee camp.

At the Bab as-Salam border crossing with Syria we encounter a father and the brother of our translator. His daughter had been killed and he had been wounded whilst fleeing from bombing.

We interviewed a number of people who told us they had been arrested and tortured for days by military police. This man had been suspended by his wrists by police because he defied the regime.

The park these Syrian now call home is dusty and the children suffer from skin irritations due to the lack of proper sanitation. Using personal donations from friends and family we were able to fill out our camera bags with hygiene products and distributed them to the families living in the camp.

Grandfather shows us his scars from a recent operation to remove shrapnel. He fled with his family from Syrian to Kilis in Turkey to escape the ever present threat of barrel bombs.

New arrivals from Syria have nothing and are forced to spend their first night sleeping outside. Eventually they will have to salvage enough discarded materials to build temporary shelters.

At a makeshift camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley we are welcomed into a growing community of refugees sheltering only a few miles from the Syrian border.

This Syrian family is squatting an empty building which was part of an ongoing construction site. Families to seek shelter where they can as winter temperatures fall to around freezing.

This makeshift kitchen in an unfinished building is shared by two large Syrian families. The Lebanese are supportive of the refugees but eventually both famiies will need to find a new home.

Emergency shelters are constructed as Syrian families continue to arrive, They all share the hope of waiting out what remains of the war in the relative safety of the Bekaa.

There was no provision for child protection present when we visited the camps. With no schools to provide an education for the Syrian children most spend their days in the water logged camps, or labouring in the fields.

Shafik Suleyman A former factory owner from Aleppo, opened the largest free-school for Syrian refugees in Istanbul, in an attempt to create a better life for a generation of displaced Syrian children.