SISTERS BY HEART Solin is from Damascus in Syria. Alva is from the island Bornholm in Denmark. In 2015 Solin came together with her brother Salar through family reunification from Syria to Denmark. Their mother Rawan fled the war 2 years earlier in a rush from one moment to another. It was in the beginning of the Syrian war and she was helping wounded people by getting medicine from Damascus to Homs. This got her on one of the regime's lists, but luckily someone warned her, making it possible to flee in time. In Denmark Rawan met photographer Martin Thaulow. They fell in love and got married. Bringing their kids together (5 all together). Solin and Alva loves each other and see themself as sisters. In many ways they show us a way to peaceful coexistence and are young role models of tolerance and unity. Despite their different backgrounds, culture, origin and religion, they embrace each other as we all ought to do. In Denmark the politicians in parliament have agreed on new strict laws and further tightenings in relation to refugees in Denmark. Alva and Solin, (and the rest of the new mixed family), are now in danger of being separated and live apart in a not so distant future. Assad is still in power running his dictatorship in Syria, and the war is not over. However it is not safe to go back for many Syrians the Danish Government now plan on large scale extradition of the Syrian refugees to their homeland. All money raised from the sale of this photo will go directly to the work of keeping Solin and Alva together. Being able to hold hands and unite. Photo by Martin Thaulow. Link to shop: https://www.martinthaulow.com/p/sisters-by-heart
When he beat me up, the family just looked, nobody did anything. When he put his hands around my neck, I couldn’t breathe. I met ‘Fatima’ in Istanbul. She is a child bride. Read the full articlecle here: https://www.refugee.today/stories/from-child-to-bride-fatimas-story
David Calleb Otieno - Human Rights defender and representative for the farmers affected by climate change in Africa and Kenya in particular. He travelled from Kenya to Bornholm (DK) to the peoples summit (#Folkemødet) to promote sustainable agricultural programs and food sovereignty. He had been part of a series of talks at the political summit and I met him late at night, when playing a match of football in the middle of the road in the yellow dimm street lights.
Ann-Sophie, another participant at #FM18. She was born spastic and can only communicate with her eyes. I met her late at night when she had been out dancing with her caretaker at one of the many parties at #Folkemødet. She left me with a great impression, and is one of my favorit memories and encounters from the event. Thanks for generously letting me take this portrait.
Jan Jensen a Homeless man portrayed late at night at the political summit #folkemødet.
This is Yazan aged 11 from Syria. He lives in a basement with his parents and 3 siblings in Fatih. One of the urban areas of Istanbul now populated largely by Syrian refugees. Yazan goes to a Turkish school, but when school ends he is working as a water-boy bringing out water in the neighbourhood. It is hard work as he carries the heavy 20 liter bottles to people's homes. Each bottle providing him with two Turkish Lira (0,34 dollar). The family is short of money and the monthly cost is high, so Yazan delivers water on demand until 10 o’clock in the evening. Yazan and his mom are the ones working in the family as his father is disabled with one leg lost and four toes amputated on the other foot still remaining. He stays home to take care of Mariam the youngest sister born with Down Syndrome. In Syria Yazan had another little sister, Hella. She was one-and-a-half-year-old, when shelling hit the house next door. When the dust settled Hella was found strangled between the bed and the wall. This made the family decided to flee from Idlib to Turkey. It was in the beginning of the Syrian war and late 2011. Istanbul turned out to be difficult and tough so they tried to get to Europe, but enden up in a transit-limbo in Bulgaria. Yazan and his father had to work for 6 dollars a day for a Bulgarian farmer to be able to put food on the table. The dream of Europe demolished. Istanbul became a reality once again. Still is.
Othman recalls how his father fell down, how they carried him to the grandfathers house and that they thought he was dead. He remembers how they suddenly realised he was still breathing and how he was rushed to a near by hospital. Shortly after he was moved to Jordan, where he passed away. The day it happened Othman was six years old. He was waiting for his dad with an uncle, his mother and his older brother Moaiad. His father came back from prayers in the Mosque, and the minute he arrived he was shot in the head by a sniper near by. Today Othman is 12 years old and lives with his family in a compound for widows and orphans in Ramtha. Every day they are reminded of the war, when they listen to the bombs exploding in Daraa. “I was really happy in Syria. I wish I could go back. We used to go out fishing together. Ever since I came here we haven’t gone by the sea fishing. I miss following my dad to the mosque”. Thanks to Othman for sharing and Farah Mjalli Al-Rawashdeh and Abed for helping out.
Alem (31) from Eritrea Alem is only mentioned by her first name because of the safety of her family members who still live in Eritrea. Eritrea is known as Africa's North Korea and every day Eritreans are being suppressed, tortured and killed in the East African country. Everyone in Eritrea is required to serve 18 months of national service. Most people end up serving a lot longer, some over a decade. The national duty is characterized by a 72-hour work week, low wages, punishment, rape of female workers and insufficient food rations - conditions described as enslavement in a UN report from 2016. Eritreans fleeing the Horn of Africa in the hope of reaching Europe have to face many dangers on their journey; rape and sexual violence against female refugees, torture and detention against a ransom to human traffickers, or drowning in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, many still attempt to make the trip in order to escape the oppressive regime and the imprisonments in Eritrea.
Aiad - stateless refugee born in Iraq. Aiad (4) is a second-generation refugee. His parents, Mohammed and Jwana, were born in a refugee camp in Iraq - as was Aiad and his brother Ziad. Aiad's father: “The only days I have experienced happiness are when I married Jwana and when she gave birth to Aiad and Ziad. I feel tremendously sad because I have spent all my life living as a refugee”. Aiad was born a normal-looking boy. At the age of 2 he lost all hair on his body and his head. His parents sought help at a local hospital, but they couldn’t afford to get a diagnosis nor to give him treatment. The family decided to flee when ISIS endangered the refugee camp. They managed to come to Denmark in 2015 after years of saving and by selling what little they had. After a year of living at 5 different asylum centers their application for asylum was denied. They now live in Germany. Aiad has still not regained his hair nor received any medical treatment.
Yassin & Salah – from Syria Yassin and Salah are twins. The 10-year-old brothers live in Camp Zacharia in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. As a lot of the children in the refugee camp, they collect garbage in order to help support their family. For a day's work the children earn around DKK 7. In spite of this, the brothers say that they like to live in the camp, because they have friends there. They cannot remember life in Syria. Yassin, with the Ferrari t-shirt dreams of becoming an engineer. Salah hopes to become a doctor someday.
Nada – from Syria. For the past 4 years Nada (14) has lived in Camp Zacharia in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Her and her twin-brother help the family by collecting garbage in the area. Nada is crying in this picture, because she is thinking of her uncle who died of a bad heart. She dreams of becoming a doctor to be able to save people like him. But first, she must convince her father that she should be allowed to go to school. She has not attended school, neither in Syria nor in Lebanon. Nada doesn't like life in Camp Zacharia and dreams of returning to Syria. Children are at risk of being kidnapped in the camps and she is very afraid to walk alone.
Parvin (b. 1984) Kurd from Iran. Parvin fled Iran with her husband Jalil (b. 1983) and their two children, Pouya and Sama, because the Iranian police were searching for Jalil. He was persecuted by the police because he had participated in a demonstration in the city of Mahabad against an Iranian officer’s rape of a local Kurdish girl. After the rape the Iranian officer had thrown the girl out of a window from the 4th floor. After two days of demonstration, the Iranian police began to arrest the protesters and put them in jail. One of Jalil’s friends who had also participated in the demonstration was arrested and afterwards the police arrived at Jalil’s house in search for him. He was not at home but his sister let him know about the police’s visit and told him that he could not come back. At first, Parvin and her family fled to a nearby city. After a while they managed to escape through Turkey and Italy and from there to Denmark. They arrived in Denmark in June 2015 and still live at the asylum center ‘Slottet’. The family has had their application for asylum denied.
When I finish my education, I hope people will look at me and see a clever woman. Someone who has fought and worked hard to educate herself. Douaa hopes that people will not only see and judge her as a Muslim woman: No, I would like to be seen as a woman – and not as this scarf. The scarf means something to me, it's part of my identity. But I would like people to judge me for, who I am and for what I've done. Whether I have done something good for the world or not. Douaa came to Denmark in 2014. What she experienced in Syria is hardly ever spoken of. I was very scared when I was in Damascus. At night she could hear the bombs falling and from her window she could see the dark grey towers of smoke rise on the sky. The nightly bombings were so frequent that Douaa almost got accustomed to the sounds. One day Douaa saw a Facebookpost with a picture of a young girl whose face was covered in blood. Killed in a car explosion. Douaa could not recognise the girl, but in school next day she was met by crying classmates - the girl in the picture was the person Douaa used to sit next to. At first she was not able to cry, she was completely petrified. Since then, Douaa has lost several friends. Douaa explains how groups of men from the military came knocking at their door in the middle of the night. The men often asked them if they were alone and Douaa did not like to think about the reason for that particular question. Her mother always lied and said her husband was at work and would come home later. She was afraid of what could happen to her daughters. Douaa's father had prior to this fled Syria and was waiting for a decision on his application for asylum. During her last time in Damascus they had almost no electricity. Their house was running on electric heating, so it was very cold inside. Douaa sat in the dark, studying for her final exam in high school. Douaa still has friends back in Syria. But it is hard to keep in touch with them because the connection is so bad and it can take a long time before her messages get through. To the question of whether she would like to return to Syria if there is peace, she answers: Yes, if there is peace, but when?.
Evin (b. 2012) from Damascus, Syria. Evin’s parents originally lived in Jobar, the first area in Damascus to be bombed in 2012. When the bombs started falling they fled to Evin’s grandparents’ house, where they for a while lived ten people in one house. None of them could work because of the war. The family fled to Tripoli in Libya where they lived for two years while Evin’s father worked as a carpenter. Shootings in the streets were common and the conditions reminded them of those they had fled from in Syria. When Evin’s brother Salem was to start school, further problems arose since the schools in Tripoli would not register him because he was from Syria. The family decided to try to flee out of Libya. To get away, they sat on a crowded ship with 1.500 other refugees. The old ship which had been used for fishing sailed towards Italy and it took them 12 hours before the Italian cost guard found them – before they reached the coast of Italy they had been on the water for 48 hours. Evin and her family came to Denmark in August 2014. They have got a residence permit and Evin now lives with her mother, father and two siblings in Nexø. Their house and a large part of Jobar have been left in ruins a long time ago. Still, 20-50 bombs are being thrown every day and the area which had a population of 250.000 before the war broke out now contains about 50.000 civilians. Evin lost her uncle in a bomb attack in 2014. He died 24 years old.
Maya (b. 2009) from Damascus, Syria. Maya’s father Ibrahim fled Syria because of the Syrian military. Like many other men before and after him he had to flee in order to avoid being forced to fight in the war. In Syria, Maya’s father was self-employed and the owner of three stores. One of the stores was placed in Damascus and the other two were located in the city of Latakia. Mayas father arrived in Denmark in 2015. Maya, her brother and her mother came to Denmark afterwards through family reunification. The whole family lives in Denmark and Maya has got some good Danish friends. Maya’s grandparents still live in Syria and she has not seen them for many years. Only online, when the network connection allows it. She misses them.