Much has changed in the world over the past six years. Yet for a generation of Syria’s children, the suffering caused by the long and brutal conflict has continued.
These photos show the Domiz refugee camp in Iraq. We visited the camp in 2013, two years into the brutal conflict, where flimsy tents sprawled over the landscape.
In 2016, more than five years into the brutal conflict, the camp looks smaller but more permanent. Houses are made of brick, with solid roofs and water tanks. Yet for many families, they may be safer but are still only temporary; there is no room for their futures in this camp.
This is the Bahar family. We met them on a visit to the camp in 2013, shortly after they had fled from their home in Syria.
We managed to meet them again in 2016 at the same refugee camp. The home that they are now in is a brick house, rather than a tent.
How has the conflict affected the family’s lives?
When the family first arrived at the camp, life was extremely dangerous. They lived in a tent and had no gas to cook food on, no nappies for the baby and no food to feed the family. They had to live with four other families and the tent was damp, cold and unsafe for the children.
Three years on, in 2016, they had moved into a brick house, with purpose-built rooms. It’s a lot more substantial, safe and permanent. “Yes, our situation has changed, but the situation here is still very bad,” said Hadia*, the mother of the family. “I had to work hard to build this house. My husband couldn’t work, so his brother helped to send money.”
Her husband travelled to find work in Erbil but has only managed to find work for a day and a half. “Because he couldn’t work we used to fight a lot,” Hadia said. “We always have to rely on other families.” The family’s house may be more permanent structurally, but they still want to return to their home in Syria. “If there was a possibility I would definitely go back to Syria,” said Hadia. “If I had my own house, I would go back.”
Children’s education above all
Back in 2013, there was not enough room in the camp schools for the three children. “My children are clever,” said their father. “Why shouldn’t they be allowed to go to school?” Today, 10-year-old Dilan and her brother Haivin, 11, both attend a Unicef-supported school in the camp for three hours a day.
Dilan loves school, especially her Arabic classes. “I want to be a doctor so that I can help the world,” she says.
Her older brother, Haivin, also enjoys school but recently his grades have started to drop. He used to come back from school and do his homework without any prompting but now he is losing interest. Hadia thinks that it is because he is bored at home.
“I remember my friends and my school [in Syria],” he says. “I remember our teacher, because she loved me a lot. She used to tell me I was the top student. I was top in everything.”
When we met the Bahar family last year, we gave Hadia the photos of her family that we had taken before. “I look at [the photo] and I see pain in my body and in the whole photo,” she says.
The family may be safer in Iraq, but their future is in danger. Children and families just like them continue to suffer because of this long and brutal conflict, which doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing.
All photos: Unicef/2013 and 2016/Schermbrucker
*All names have been changed