A little more than a year ago I helped to tell Loury’s story, along with Molly Bernstein and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. As journalists we often tell stories and don’t have the resources or opportunity to follow-up after they are published. Fortunately, I was able to go back and tell Loury’s story again this year; this time with the lovely Dalia Mortada and once again in collaboration with the Fuller Project for International Reporting.
Last year when the story was published, there was an outpouring of support. Someone even donated a violin. But it wasn’t enough to change Loury’s life in the longterm. She’s given up on going back to school but hasn’t stopped learning. She now speaks Turkish and is working on her English. Because she is working, her brother is able to go to school. She says this is what matters to her now.
Sometimes I still don’t believe this even happened, but here’s the video to remind me it did. I was beyond honored (and terrified) to share my experience of traveling with Syrian Ziad Altaha from Turkey to Norway at TEDxLausanne.
Weeks before the event, I was struggling to craft an end to the speech. As I was going through old boxes, I came across a book from my mom and opened it. Inside the front cover it said, “May you make every journey one that brings you closer to yourself and others.”
That’s it! The stories I tell are my journeys, and I’m grateful for each one.
Thank you Ziad Altaha for believing in the power of your story and helping me remember why every story, life, person matters.
Last September colleague and friend Danielle Villasana and I started editing and writing for The Everyday Projects Medium publication. Back in July 2014, we were living in Lima, Peru, and the work of Everyday Africa caught our eye. We wanted to bring its mission– “an attempt to form a more complete portrayal of life on the continent than the mainstream media allows”–to Latin America too. So along with two other colleagues, we started Everyday Latin America. Since then, we’ve met several of the contributors to the accounts and Everyday Africa founders Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill.
The Everyday accounts on Instagram are all volunteer. The photographers contributing to them do so out of concern and commitment to the craft of journalism and the regions where we live and work. Being part of an industry on a shifting and often shaky foundation, The Everyday Projects has been a ray of light to me, and I’m thrilled the Medium publication has allowed me to become more involved with telling stories that I think matter.
Here are a few of the articles I most enjoyed writing:
Last fall I traveled to four countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Nigeria and India – to witness and document what people are doing to stop violence against women and girls. Oxfam recently released the series of videos that tell the stories of women learning self defense in Jordan, theater and sports creating better gender equality among adolescents in Nigeria, LGBTQIA individuals in Lebanon finding refuge at MOSAIC, the government and private sector working together to help survivors of violence in India, and economic and social opportunities bringing new life to women in Bangladesh.
Hoor saw the sea for the first time in Istanbul. When she looks at it, she says she feels calm and comforted.
Important stories are usually difficult to listen to and also to tell. I recently photographed Hoor to depict the story of an Afghan teenage girl in Istanbul, written by Fariba Nawa. Hoor escaped a forced marriage in Afghanistan, defied deportation in Iran and crossed the border into Turkey with smugglers, and without her family. Once in Turkey, she was raped by one of the smugglers. As the title of the article reads, unfortunately the refugee trail can be as dangerous as the war left behind.
Hoor is now living at a state-run orphanage, studying Turkish and in the process of getting her Turkish residency. In her notebook she jots down Turkish words and their translations in her native Dari. Hoor left three younger sisters behind in Afghanistan, who she says inspire her to learn Turkish and look for work so she can find a way to bring them to Istanbul.
Last fall I traveled to four countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Nigeria and India – to witness what people are doing to stop violence against women and girls. I am honored to be part of this project – a collaboration between News Deeply and Oxfam in the Middle East – and look forward to sharing the series with you all later this year. In each country we selected one project to profile in video, which we are in the process of finalizing. For now, here’s a glimpse at what is to come. Globally violence against women is still prevalent, but it’s heartening to see initiatives of all kinds and scales out there serving those most in need.
It’s rare that I’m the one being interviewed, but sometimes it is good to have the tables turned. Thanks to Women in Foreign Policy for giving me the chance to talk a bit about journalism, Istanbul and Everyday Latin America.
I can still hear Ghina’s voice in my head. The 16-year-old Syrian refugee spoke like a 20-something seasoned activist (until she started talking about her favorite South Korean boy band!). Ghina’s father was arrested years ago, and the family hasn’t heard from him since. Her sisters made it to the U.S. and Germany through education opportunities, but Ghina and her mother are still living in southern Turkey. We visited Ghina to learn more about what life is like for her divided family and how the war has affected her education.
It’s not the waiting that is destroying Hafiz Abdalla, although existing in the strange limbo between asylum seeker and German resident is constantly disorienting. It is how no one seems aware of the violence in Sudan, the lack of news coverage of the war, and his inability to communicate in German. It’s a collection of things that gain weight the way an object seems to when sinking.
Caitlin L. Chandler and I recently spent some time in Hannover, Germany, at a protest camp created by Sudanese refugees. While the organizers don’t live at the camp, sometimes refugees without a place to go stay over night. Sitting under one of the tattered tents and listening to their stories, I’m transported to Sudan. I think to myself, these individuals have come so far and given so much to end up in a place that feels a lot like what they were trying to leave. Caitlin’s article in Vice offers a story that I think is too absent in the media.
Hafiz Abdalla is a political activist in Hannover, Germany, where he is one of several organizers of a camp to protest the treatment of Sudanese refugees and question Germany’s diplomacy towards the Sudanese government.
Ali Ahmed from South Kordofan, Sudan, left the country in 2005. Ahmed received asylum in Italy but left because he was unable to make a living. He's been deported once from Germany. Back in Italy, he slept in a car for two weeks and then returned to Germany.
Khadija Noor from Northern Darfur lives on the outskirts of Hannover with her three children.
Hafiz Abdalla filed for asylum in June 2014, well before the current crisis; he has yet to receive an answer.
Inside the communal kitchen at the protest camp started in May 2014 in Hannover, Germany.
Inside a tent at the protest camp started in May 2014 in Hannover, Germany.
Mohammed Said Mustafa, 36, from North Kortum, Darfur, came to live in Germany after four years in Belgium where he says his claim for asylum was denied.
Several Sudanese men gather to talk about their current immigration situation at the camp.
Mohammed Said Mustafa says his application for asylum was denied in Belgium and strangers helped him arrive to Germany where he now lives in a home for the blind among mostly Germans.
Hafiz Abdalla cooks lunch at his apartment in Hannover, Germany. Abdalla lives in a small apartment he shares with four other men and receives 360 euros ($400) a month from the government, 150 of which he sends to family in Sudan.
An advent calendar filled with chocolates, some eaten out of order, sits on the counter in Hafiz Abdalla's apartment.
I recently collaborated with Xanthe Ackerman and Molly Bernstein of the Fuller Project for International Reporting to tell Raghad’s story for Foreign Affairs. Raghad is one of thousands of teenage Syrian girls in Turkey whose education was disrupted by the war. Once in Turkey, Syrians face many decisions regarding their children’s education: to send them to government schools where language and discrimination can be an obstacles or to enroll their children in private Arabic-language schools that can often be cost prohibitive. Some families cannot send their children to school and rely on their income to live.
Raghad says she is fortunate that her family can send her to an Arabic-language school, but she admits nervousness when it comes to her future. She wants to go to university but doesn’t know how it will be paid for, where she will study or what language she will study in.