Earlier this year we told you about Syrian refugee, Hany (20) and his younger brother Ashraf (almost 4) – young Syrian refugees that escaped fighting in their homeland and sought safety in Lebanon. Hany’s dreams include going to school and becoming a communications engineer and now a photographer.
Hany tells his story of lost dreams and his hope for the future in his own words.
Two years ago, I arrived with my family in Lebanon because of the war in my country. Like any other refugee, I faced many difficulties, not least getting used to living in a tent. I tried hard to attend university, but to no avail. All I brought with me when I left Syria was my high school diploma and memories of happiness, friends, fun times, our warm house, my childhood and school.
I made sure to bring my poems and all those books I had saved up to buy, one by one. I brought with me memories of myself as Hany, the boy who is full of dreams and ambitions which he came so close to realizing before they were abruptly shattered by war.
I am now here in Lebanon. My dream of being a communications engineer is starting to slowly fade. I am not used to doing nothing all day. I desperately search for anything to do that would give me the relief one feels after having achieved something like a good exam.
I miss trips with friends, my mother smiling at me in the morning, my friend who used to wait for me for 15 minutes so we can go to school together in Syria, writing a new poem or even saving up to buy a new book!
It’s not the life in the tented settlement that entraps me. I am not worried about hunger and cold. I am worried about the entrapment I feel inside.
If only you could see what’s inside my head. You will find an aspiring university student, carving nonsensical equations on wood. You will find a teenage writer, writing the fifth draft of his past in a book entitled ‘Hope’.
You might find a version of me dancing to the sound of a clock ticking, a torture if you are used to the sound of Fayrouz or Frank Sinatra. You will find a chessboard whose stones died from boredom. There you will find me.
Recently I had the opportunity to become a photographer for a week. This was the first step towards my dream because photography is all about exploring your curiosity. I received a phone call from UNHCR inviting me to a photography course taught by a professional photographer. I told myself that this was my chance to rise and shine, to show what I have, to leave this tent.
I remember the first day in great detail. I had so many questions: Who were the other students? What will we do? I still recall the first thing the teacher told us: that photography is a vast field with very few rules.
Everyone laughed when, for the first day, we were handed cardboard frames to use as cameras. I took the “camera” home to the surprised faces of my family and neighbours. I told my cardboard camera that I will soon get a real one, but that I would never forget it.
When I held the real camera for the first time I had a strange feeling that it was part of my body and that I was part its body. This feeling only became stronger with time.
The most important assignment given to us during the course was the “Dream” assignment because dreams and ambitions are what hurt the most right now. I took a self-portrait with a fake camera and I photographed the programming language, algorithms and equations I have been setting myself but which I should be studying at university. I photographed my music instruments: a broom and a barrel that I use as guitar and drums.
I will always remember the story the photo course teacher told us about an old man he helped achieve his long life dream of recording a piano album. He finally did it at the age of 85.
I don’t want to wait that long to achieve my dreams.
Translated from Arabic by Warda Al-Jawahiry
Hany, 20, is a refugee from the Syrian city of Homs. He and his family fled to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley shortly after he received his high school diploma in 2012. They have been living in a tented settlement ever since. The family is being considered for resettlement to a third country, where Hany hopes to pursue a degree in telecommunications engineering.