Here's What These Syrian Refugees Took With Them When They Fled

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Video by Charles Wharton.

When sharing the stories of Syrian refugees, we often talk about loss. When we see Syrian refugees in the media, they are often portrayed in the context of war and desperate emergency situations. The aim of this photo series was to connect everyday Australians with Syrian refugees, through the simple concept of an object.

In conversations between friends and family, we have all at one time or another discussed what we would take if we had to leave our homes. What would you grab if a bushfire was threatening your home? What is the thing most precious to you?

In asking Syrian refugees this same question, I wanted to convey our shared humanity. A mother protecting her newborn baby with a shawl but leaving behind everything else, a young girl bringing her colouring book, her way of expressing her feelings... these are concepts that everyone can understand and connect to, despite how far away the conflict in Syria may be.

Yahir's ball

"My soccer ball is special to me because I always play with it. It’s the only thing I have to play with.”

Nour’s shawl

“When we fled from our house after when we were bombed, there was no time to take anything.

This shawl was the first thing I saw, so I took it and put it on my shoulders. We didn’t have anything else but the clothes we were wearing.

When we arrived at the Jordanian border, it was so cold. We slept outside for three nights, without shelter, without blankets or anything to keep us warm.

My son was nine months old and I covered him using this shawl. This shawl kept my baby warm when there was nothing else.”

Laila’s watch

“This is my dad’s watch, his precious watch. He’s had it since he was a young man. I wanted something to remind me of him, because every girl loves their dad."

Farid’s Holy Book

“As a Muslim, the most precious thing for me is my Holy Book, the Quran.

The Quran is a kind of a thing that attaches a person to his God and for Muslims it should be the most precious thing. Muslims should have a very big place for it in their heart.

This Quran was a gift from my cousin, he gave it to me when we were little kids and I’ve kept it with me ever since.

The Holy Book means a connection. It connects the person with his God, whenever he feels tired, whenever he feels weak.”

Kaleigh’s 'Goblet of Fear'

“This is a goblet, and it’s from ancient heritage. We call it 'Goblet of Fear' and we use it when a child get scared.

We fill the bowl with water and say 'In the Name of Allah'. The child drinks the water and their fear subsides.

We used it a lot during the crisis and the events of the war, so I consider it a precious thing.

When we first arrived in Jordan, we used to hear aeroplanes flying overhead, which seems like a normal thing. But they reminded my children of the war and frightened them.

Of course it’s a horrible feeling when my children are scared. I feel helpless, because I can’t make them feel safe.

They start to cry when they’re scared, and sometimes I cry with them. There were times where I couldn’t protect my children from feeling fear.

It’s so important to me to protect my children from fear and from things they saw. So that’s why I’ve kept the bowl and I still use it today.”

Yesenia’s colouring book

“This is my colouring book. I used to draw all the things that happened in my life, especially when the war started and we came from Syria to Jordan.

For example, this picture is of the first tent which we lived in when we arrived in Jordan.”

Jaliyah’s beads

“These beads are so precious to me because they’re the only thing that kept us safe as we were escaping from Homs.

I was holding the beads all the while and praying for God just to keep us safe while we were on the road. To keep us away from the check stops and keep us safe.

We came to Jordan in 2012 to escape the heavy bombing, the shooting, the war. We were the last to leave. It was just our family and our neighbours who remained.

All the other families in the neighbourhood had already gone, but then the situation got really worse and we left too.”

Aida’s jacket

“When we were in Syria before the war, I was in a shop market with my grandpa, who has passed away now.

I was walking with him and he bought me this jacket, this beautiful one. I really love it.

I used to wear it all the time whenever I went out. And when the winter ends, I put it in my closet.

This year it was very tight, it felt very small, so I gave it to my sister.”


Joel Pratley is a photographer for Act for Peace's Ration Challenge, where Australians eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan for one week and get sponsored to do it. You can learn more about the Ration Challenge here.