Afghan-Canadian refugee artist designs World Refugee Day Twitter emoji

United States. Afghan refugee design World Refugee Day logo

Hangama Amiri, an Afghan-Canadian artist and former refugee is the designer of the 2021 World Refugee Day Twitter emoji.   © UNHCR/Ashley Le

NEW YORKUNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Twitter have teamed up with a refugee to design an emoji honouring the millions of people forced to flee war and persecution.

UNHCR and Twitter commissioned Afghan-Canadian artist Hangama Amiri to create the emoji for World Refugee Day, celebrated each year on 20 June. It is the first time the emoji has been designed by a refugee. The design features a blue heart cupped between two hands to symbolize protection and solidarity. It goes live today and will be activated on any tweet that uses the hashtags #WorldRefugeeDay, #WithRefugees and #RefugeeDay, in any of 12 languages, through 23 June.

“Twitter is pleased to continue our partnership with UNHCR with the creation of this emoji honouring those who are forced to flee war and persecution,” said Twitter’s Director of Public Policy, Government and Philanthropy for Middle East and North Africa, George Salama. “We are especially proud that this year for the first time, the emoji has been designed by a refugee, Afghan-Canadian artist Hangama Amiri. We hope that Hangama's story will inspire others and the emoji will help to raise awareness and demonstrate solidarity with the refugee community worldwide."

Hangama Amiri was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan and displaced multiple times as a child due to the conflict raging in her native Afghanistan. As a young refugee, Amiri said drawing helped her feel safe and make sense of things around her. 

While living in Tajikistan, she received a scholarship after winning an art competition held by UNHCR. In 2005, she and her family were resettled in Nova Scotia, Canada. She recently completed a graduate degree at the Yale School of Art in the United States. Her colourful textile work explores issues related to feminism, geopolitics and memory and has been exhibited across Europe, Canada and the United States. 

“I decided to come up with an idea around hope, togetherness and love,” Amiri said. “As a refugee, the love around me was the only thing I held on to.” She created a tangible version of the digital emoji by sewing together scraps of colourful fabric, a technique she uses frequently in her artwork. 

More than 80 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge within their own country or across borders. 

The United Nations designated 20 June as World Refugee Day 20 years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. Twitter has worked with UNHCR for several years to raise awareness of the rights, needs and hopes of forcibly displaced people.

This World Refugee Day, UNHCR calls for the greater inclusion of refugees in our communities, and especially access to health care, education and sport.  

“The shared experience of COVID-19 has taught us that we are stronger when we work together,” said Gisella Lomax, Head of Social Media at UNHCR. “This year’s World Refugee Day emoji is about togetherness and love, and we encourage Twitter users to share it as a sign of solidarity for all people forced from home.”

Throughout the pandemic, social media has been a lifeline to many for vital health information, for news, for interactions with friends and family and more. It has also been important to organisations like UNHCR, where social media - and especially Twitter - is a central part of our communications and external outreach, enabling us to inform, inspire and mobilise action. UNHCR is grateful to Twitter for their long-standing partnership and support for our work and the refugee cause.

B-Roll

Media Contacts: 

UNHCR:

TWITTER: 

VIDEO:

 https://media.unhcr.org/Share/32o3638ayp774k8jp32m15wn8ff62cqi

#WorldRefugeeDay Twitter emoji designed by Afghan textile artist, Hangama Amiri (Pauline Eluère, producer/ Ashley Francesca Le, Videographer, Editor )

Q/A with Hangama Amiri:

Hashtags

#RefugeeDay #WorldRefugeeDay #WithRefugees #مع_اللاجئين #Aveclesréfugiés #JournéeDuRéfugié #ConLosRefugiados #DíaDelRefugiado #DoItLuquluqu #Weltflüchtlingstag #ComOsRefugiados #HariPelarianSedunia #HariPengungsiSedunia #世界難民の日  #세계난민의날  #วันผู้ลี้ภัยโลก #DiaDosRefugiados #विश्वशरणार्थीदिवस #GiornataMondialeDelRifugiato