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Syrian refugees recreate landmarks from home

Syrian artists living in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan are using any materials they can find in a project to recreate historic sites from home

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Plastic bags, kebab skewers and discarded wood: Syrian artists living in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan are using any materials they can find in a project to recreate historic sites from home.

With simple tools and materials found around the camp, a group of artists from the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa have created models of 11 landmarks they fear might be destroyed or have already been damaged in fighting.

“It’s very important for us to keep this heritage,” Ahmad Hariri, an IT engineer who brought the group of six artists together, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a Skype interview.

“It’s a message to the world to show them how big the civilization of Syria is and what the war is doing to it. It’s a message to stop the war.”

He said the artists also wanted to show children living in the camp who have no memory of Syria these important monuments to their country’s ancient civilization.

They started working on the project at the end of 2014, using photographs and their own memories.

“Most of us have been to those sites many times so we know them in detail,” Ahmad Hariri said through a translator.

Among landmarks that the artists have created is a model of the ancient city of Palmyra, now partially destroyed, made of clay and kebab skewers, a replica of the damaged Citadel of Aleppo and the destroyed Deir al-Zor suspension bridge.

Ahmad Hariri said the group would like to exhibit their work, which also includes paintings and sculptures, to show the world a heritage is being destroyed in Syria - but said it was difficult to organise in terms of logistics.

He said the members of the group, who have now been in the camp for around three years, hope to go back to Syria “when it’s safe to do so” and are planning to continue to work together.

“We’ll go back to our normal life,” Ahmad Hariri said.

“I was teaching arts and I hope I can go back to my passion and catch up with my country,” said Mahmoud Hariri, an artist who built the model of Palmyra.

The war in Syria has left more than 250,000 dead and sparked the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two. Some 4.3 million Syrians have fled the country, and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria.

Zaatari refugee camp, located in northern Jordan, some 15 km (9 miles) from the Syrian border, hosts more than 79,000 Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations.