Syrian teen has a chance to dream again in Austria

A photography project has given 15-year-old Amr the confidence to make his dreams a reality.

Amr dreams of a world without war and wants to be a journalist.  © UNHCR/Fetching_Tigerrs/petoei/andrea crisante/andrewvect/kasha_malasha/

VIENNA, Austria – Now living in safety in Austria, 15-year-old Amr has the chance to dream again, but he will never forget the reality of life back in war-torn Syria.

“I remember the bombs,” he says. “The sound of the bombs. The rockets. The weapons. It was really horrible. And loud. Really loud.”

Amr is one of 12 refugee children living in Europe who feature in a new project that lets the youngsters’ imaginations run free.

Entitled the Dream Diaries, the project sees children reveal their hopes and dreams from the safety of their new homes in Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, far from the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and beyond.

The series was produced by Humans of Amsterdam photographer Debra Barraud, her colleague Benjamin Heertje, graphic designer Annegien Schilling, film-maker Kris Pouw and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

In it, Amr, who fled Syria and found refuge in Vienna in October 2015 with his parents and two siblings, shares his hopes of becoming a journalist. A portrait shows him on television with a microphone, reporting on breaking news.

"I remember the mud, the cold and the constant rain."

“I think the world without war is so much better,” he tells the team. “It is interesting for me to hear things about Syria. I saw so many stories about Syria going around on the internet and it is hard to tell if they are true. People must hear the truth and journalists have the power to do that. That is why I want to become a journalist.’’

Like millions of others, Amr’s journey to Europe was fraught with danger. In 2016, over 50 per cent of refugees were children. Unaccompanied or separated children – mainly from Afghanistan and Syria – made some 75,000 asylum applications in 70 countries during that year. Approximately one third of people seeking asylum in Germany in 2015 and 2016 were children and youth.

“What I remember most about our journey is the rubber boat,” says Amr. “It took five hours. The engine shut down a few times. We were so scared. It was midnight. We all were navigating on our phones. We went from Turkey to Greece. I mostly remember all the walking we did. I remember the mud, the cold and the constant rain. I did not eat much. When we finally arrived in Austria, I was so happy that I no longer had to walk.”

Amr is one of 12 refugee children living in Europe who feature in a new project entitled the Dream Diaries.  © UNHCR/Humans of Amsterdam

Now in Vienna, Amr is at school and making new friends.

“On my first day in school here, I was very nervous. The kids in my class asked me a lot of questions about Syria and the war. I didn’t mind explaining to my classmates what my life was like in Syria. I told them about Aleppo, about the war and also about the falafel because falafel in Syria is really good. I already made a lot of friends here but sometimes I miss my friends in Syria.”

“We saw the strength of these children and how, with the right support, they can achieve anything."

The four creators of the Dream Diaries travelled more than 7,000 kilometres across Europe over 16 days to capture the dreams of children and youngsters like Amr.

“When children flee their home countries they leave everything behind, except their hopes and dreams,” says Debra Barraud, whose Humans of Amsterdam photography project has over 400,000 Facebook followers. “Through the project, we saw the strength of these children and how, with the right support, they can achieve anything.”

In Austria, Amr finally has the opportunity to pursue his dreams.

“Life was good, but the war ended everything,” he says. “I am dreaming of speaking German perfectly, of graduating school and becoming a well-known journalist.”

Audiences are being encouraged to stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s global petition, which asks decision makers to grant refugees safety, education and opportunities – turning their dreams into reality. You can follow The Dream Diaries series via Humans of Amsterdam, Fetching_Tigerss and UNHCR’s digital and social accounts.

With quotes from the full stories by @humansofamsterdam

See more stories from The Dream Diaries