Jordanian Instagram account gives Syrian refugees a voice
Jordanians Haneen Diri and Rana AlTarawneh created an Instagram page to raise awareness
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the total number of refugees registered by UNHCR in Jordan stands at 655,833, as of November 2016. Although the extensive number of Syrian refugees has placed tremendous pressure on Jordan’s economy and infrastructure, many Jordanians are working to support these refugees.
Determined to provide a voice for Syrian refugees in Jordan and raise awareness about their ongoing struggles, Jordanians Haneen Diri and Rana AlTarawneh created an Instagram account @Lifeofarefugenius to achieve this goal. Diri and AlTarawneh photograph Syrian women, men and children and post their experiences on Instagram, depicting the personal accounts and stories of a wide range of refugees.
Both Diri and AlTarawneh work at NGOs that are providing assistance to the Syrian refugee community, a position which has allowed them to gain first-hand accounts of their experiences. Through their work, both girls have developed strong relationships with many of the refugees, learning about their immense talents, various strengths and unique personalities. Access to refugee camps in Jordan; however, are confined to those who work with NGOS, and thus, most people are unable to fully understand the circumstances of the Syrian refugees. After realizing that only a limited number of individuals are able to obtain comprehensive understandings, Diri and AlTarawneh became inspired to create their Instagram page.
Cute little Noor* lives with her elder sister and grandmother. She came to live in Amman within Jordanian host communities as she lost her father and uncle during her last days in Syria. However, Noor is very lively and so enthusiastic towards learning and playing with her peers. Sometimes her outburst of energy cant be controlled, but it is Noor's own mechanism of dealing with post traumatic stress⚖️ الحلوة نور بتعيش مع اختها الكبيرة وجدتها. اجو ليعيشوا في المخيمات المحلية بعمان. نور خسرت والدها وعمها من ورا الحرب في سوريا. مع كل الي عاشتوا نور، لسا فيها طاقة كتيرة ودايما متحمسة لتتعلم وتلعب مع صحابها. مرات كتير صعب انو معلماتها يتحكموا بطاقة نور الزيادة، بس هي يمكن طريقة نور الوحيدة لتفريغ الصدمة من الحرب #سوريا #حرب #سلام #صدمة #حرية #حب #تماسك #طفلة #أطفال #حلب #الأردن #براءة #لا_للعنف #اتحاد #love #unity #Aleppo #Syria #child #children #peace #shock #innocence #UnitedNations #Humansrightswatch #humanity #everylastchild #notjustarefugee
“Through our Instagram page, we want to reflect the situation of the Syrian refugees in a positive and motivating way for the people who are unable to get first-hand accounts and who have limited knowledge about what’s happening. We also want to give a voice to the intelligent, innocent and enthusiastic Syrian individuals and families who have been displaced from their homes and unveil what they are capable of and their coping mechanisms,” Diri said.
AlTarawneh added: “The serenity and happiness that the refugees instill in us while spending more than eight hours a day with them is genuinely overwhelming, so we want to share this happiness with the world.”
Gentlemen on their first time out from the Zataari refugee camp in 3/4 years! They were very happy and were taking pictures in every corner! هدول الخمس شباب طلعوا من مخيم الزعتري لأحد المطاعم في الاْردن لأول مرة من ٣/٤ سنين، كانوا كتير مبسوطين و بس بدهم ياخدوا صور بكل زاوية! #رحلة #جرش #طبيعة #مطعم #حب #اصحاب #صورة #صور #سلام #حرية #سوريا #love #peace #freedom #friends #UNHCR #unitednations #UN #humanrights #outing #notjustarefugee #everylastchild #halab #syria #jordan #jerash #Zataari
Diri and AlTarawneh refuse to post sad or brutal images of the refugee communities on their Instagram page, instead they choose to depict their difficult conditions and experiences in a positive manner. “Brutal images have become the norm within our world; most images reflecting the Syrian crisis are very brutal and bring nothing but sadness to the consciousness and the unconsciousness of any normal human being,” Diri said.
“We want to spread a positive message and reflect what we genuinely feel; whenever we post an image or a certain story, our description comes from deep within as these specific stories and incidents have affected us positively and we want others to feel it too,” she added. By doing so, they hope to encourage people to appreciate the simplicities of life, as well as present a different, more personal, image of the refugees.
Diri and AlTarawneh also use their Instagram account to gather various donations for the refugees. In mid-November, they launched “The Winterization Campaign,” aiming to collect clothes for various Syrian families living in the Azraq Camp, which is located east of the capital Amman and is home to thousands of refugees. The Azraq camp has received minimal clothing aid since it officially opened in 2014. As Diri has access to the camp through her NGO work, the girls decided to collect and distribute clothes to the refugees. The campaign quickly attracted the attention of many followers, receiving 300 bags of clothes and 20 large boxes of toys. “We were extremely satisfied with the amount of aid we received and we are extremely thankful to those who donated because they made 40,000 individuals’ winter much warmer,” AlTarawneh said.
Since creating “Lifeofarefugenius” in the beginning of September, Diri and AlTarawneh have garnered supporters from around the world, reaching over 4,000 followers in less than three months. The girls particularly noticed that their page greatly intrigued many followers from Europe and the United States. Social influences, writers and activists concerned with matters relating to Syrian refugees have also shown immense appreciation, sending messages to the account and requesting further information about certain subjects.
As “Lifeofarefugenius” further expands and gains additional followers, Diri and AlTarawneh are determined to “continue raising awareness about the Syrian refugee crisis, keep being a voice for the refugees and most importantly make them feel that there are people who still care about them,” Diri said.