The war in Syria has continued for almost five years and more than two million children are fleeing the war. They have left their friends, their homes, and their beds behind. A few of these children offered to show where they sleep now, when everything that once was no longer exists. When Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman started taking those photos, he realized an overwhelming amount of children went to bed afraid.
“I was struck by the children there; they are the most innocent” said Wennman, who believes it is difficult for outsiders to care about a conflict that has been going on for years and may be hard to understand. “But there is nothing hard to understand about how children need a safe place to sleep” he said.
Source/Interview : CNN & Aftonbladet.se – Photography : Magnus Wennman
Abdullah, 5 years old
BELGRAD, SERBIA. Abdullah has a blood disease. For the last two days, he has been sleeping outside of the central station in Belgrade. He saw the killing of his sister in their home in Daraa. “He is still in shock and has nightmares every night,” says his mother. A bdullah is tired and is not healthy, but his mother does not have any money to buy medicine for him.
Ahmed, 6 years old
HORGOS, SERBIA. It is after midnight when Ahmed falls asleep in the grass. The adults are still sitting around, formulating plans for how they are going to get out of Hungary without registering themselves with the authorities. Ahmed is six years old and carries his own bag over the long stretches that his family walks by foot. “He is brave and only cries sometimes in the evenings,” says his uncle, who has taken care of Ahmed since his father was killed in their hometown Deir ez-Zor in northern Syria.
Amir, 20 months
ZAHLE FAYDA. Amir, 20 months, was born a refugee. His mother believes her son was traumatized in the womb. “Amir has never spoken a single word,” says Shahana, 32. In the plastic tent where the family now lives, Amir has no toys, but he plays with whatever he can find on the ground. “He laughs a lot, even though he doesn’t talk,” says his mother.
Fara, 2 years old
AZRAQ Fara, 2, loves soccer. Her dad tries to make balls for her by crumpling up anything he can find, but they don’t last long. Every night, he says goodnight to Fara and her big sister Tisam, 9, in the hope that tomorrow will bring them a proper ball to play with. All other dreams seem to be beyond his reach, but he is not giving up on this one.
Fatima, 9 years old
NORBERG, SWEDEN. Every night, Fatima dreams that she’s falling from a ship. Together with her mother, Malaki, and her two siblings, Fatima fled from the city Idlib when the Syrian national army senselessly slaughtered civilians in the city. After two years in a refugee camp in Lebanon, the situation became unbearable and they made it to Libya where they boarded an overcrowded boat. On the deck of the boat, a very pregnant woman gave birth to her baby after twelve hours in the scorching sun. The baby was a stillbirth and was thrown overboard. Fatima saw everything. When the refugee’s boat started to take on water, they were picked up by the Italian coastguard.
Gulistan, 6 years old
SURUC. There’s a difference between closing your eyes and sleeping, as six-year-old Gulistan knows. She prefers to shut her eyes and just pretend, because every time she really falls asleep, the nightmares start. – I don’t want to sleep here. I want to sleep at home, she says. She misses the pillow she had in Kobane. Sometimes she lies against her mother and uses her as a pillow.
Lamar, 5 years old
Horgos, Serbia. Back home in Baghdad, the dolls, the toy train, and the ball are left; Lamar often talks about these items when home is mentioned. The bomb changed everything. The family was on its way to buy food when it was dropped close to their house. It was not possible to live there anymore, says Lamar’s grandmother, Sara. After two attempts to cross the sea from Turkey in a small, rubber boat, they succeeded in coming here to Hungary’s closed border. Now Lamar sleeps on a blanket in the forest, scared, frozen, and sad.
Mahdi, 1,5 years old
Horgos/Roszke. Mahdi is one and one half years old. He has only experienced war and flight. He sleeps deeply despite the hundreds of refugees climbing around him. They are protesting against not being able to travel further through Hungary. On the other side of the border, hundreds of police are standing. They have orders from the Primary Minister Viktor Orbán to protect the border at every cost. The situation is becoming more desperate and the day after the photo is taken, the police use tear gas and water cannons on the refugees.
Ralia, 7 and Rahaf, 13 years old
BEIRUT. Ralia, 7, and Rahaf, 13, live on the streets of Beirut. They are from Damascus, where a grenade killed their mother and brother. Along with their father, they have been sleeping rough for a year. They huddle close together on their cardboard boxes. Rahaf says she is scared of “bad boys,” at which Ralia starts crying.
Sham, 1 year old
Roszke/Horgos. In the very front, just alongside the border between Serbia and Hungary by the 4-meter-high iron gate, Sham is laying in his mother’s arms. Just a few decimeters behind them is the Europe they so desperately are trying to reach. Only one day before, the last refugees were allowed through and taken by train to Austria. But Sham and his mother arrived too late, along with thousands of other refugees who now wait outside the closed Hungarian border.
Shehd, 7 years old
Shehd loves to draw, but more recently, all of her drawings have had the same theme: weapons. “She saw them all the time, they are everywhere,” explains her mother when the little girl sleeps on the ground alongside Hungary’s closed border. Now she does not draw at all. The family brought neither paper nor crayons with them on their flight. Shehd does not play anymore either. The escape has forced children to become adults and share concern for what happens in an hour or a day. The family has had difficulty finding food during their wandering. Some days, they have had to make do with apples they were able to pick from trees along the road. If the family had known how hard the journey would be, they would have chosen to risk their lives in Syria.
Shiraz, 9 years old
SURUC. Shiraz, 9, was three months old when she was stricken with a severe fever. The doctor diagnosed polio and advised her parents to not spend too much money on medicine for the girl who ”didn’t have a chance.” Then the war came. Her mother, Leila, starts crying when she describes how she wrapped the girl in a blanket and carried her over the border from Kobane to Turkey. Shiraz, who can’t talk, received a wooden cradle in the refugee camp. She lies there. Day and night.
Tamam, 5 years old
AZRAQ. Five-year-old Tamam is scared of her pillow. She cries every night at bedtime. The air raids on her hometown of Homs usually took place at night, and although she has been sleeping away from home for nearly two years now, she still doesn’t realize that her pillow is not the source of danger.
Walaa, 5 years old
DAR-EL-IAS. Walaa, 5, wants to go home. She had her own room in Aleppo, she tells us. There, she never used to cry at bedtime. Here, in the refugee camp, she cries every night. Resting her head on the pillow is horrible, she says, because nighttime is horrible. That was when the attacks happened. By day, Walaa’s mother often builds a little house out of pillows, to teach her that they are nothing to be afraid of.
Sources/More photos : CNN & Aftonbladet.se – Photography : Magnus Wennman
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