‘To Draw My Future With My Own Hand’ – Through Courageous Eyes

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This is the story of Fatima, a teenage mother of three and widow, who learned photography at Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. This story was written by Warda Al-Jawahiry, a contributor to the Tracks collection of stories of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). For the entire piece, please continue reading on the Tracks site

The Through Courageous Eyes blog series features migrant and refugee artists and is curated by Cecilia Pessoa, LIRS Communications Associate.

Just 19 years old, Fatima is already a widowed mother of three and a refugee from the conflict in Syria. Through photography, she has found a way to relate her experiences and begin rebuilding her shattered life.

Before receiving a camera, Fatima learned to frame scenes with a piece of cardboard.UNHCR/B.Bannon
Before receiving a camera, Fatima learned to frame scenes with a piece of cardboard.
UNHCR/B.Bannon

“Sometimes when I see my friends who are the same age, still studying, taking courses, not married and with no kids, I feel I am still young,” Fatima tells me when we meet. “But grief is not a light thing to carry. It’s a heavy burden. It can age and weaken a person.”

As we sit in her nondescript shelter inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp and she describes the events that brought her here, I have to remind myself that she is still only 19.

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 recognize anything of life but tenderness. UNHCR/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 recognize anything of life but tenderness.”
UNHCR/Fatima

Two years ago she was living with her husband, Mustafa, and two young sons in an abandoned school close to the Syrian capital, having been driven from their home in the suburban Damascus district of Ghouta by constant shelling.

She calmly recalls the horror of watching from a window one day as her husband and his brother were detained and beaten by soldiers at a checkpoint near the school. A few hours later her deepest fears were confirmed. Her husband had been killed, and his body put on public display.

Life Pressure - The absence of my beloved one caused a burden that is intolerable. The pressure of life taught me, told me to draw my future with my own hand. UNHCR/Fatima
“Life Pressure – The absence of my beloved one caused a burden that is intolerable. The pressure of life taught me, told me to draw my future with my own hand.”
UNHCR/Fatima

“That was the worst moment of my life,” Fatima says. “They took my husband right in front of me and I was helpless to do anything. We couldn’t bury his body.” A widow at 17 and pregnant with her third child, she left behind her homeland and the only life she knew.

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.UNHCR/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 won’t give up. We will prove to the world that we are still children, adults and old men. We are Syrian refugees.”
UNHCR/Fatima

To watch a video about Fatima’s photography and to continue reading the rest of Fatima’s story see UNHCR Tracks. Find all the previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.

Through Courageous Eyes features the artistic work of refugees and migrants. If you would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at cpessoa@lirs.org.

Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser

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