In Photos: Syrian girls share how 11 years of conflict has impacted their lives

Millions of children were born in Syria since the conflict began more than a decade ago. Thousands have lost family members and been forced to flee their homes to camps in far away places and across neighbouring countries. Most continue to experience, daily, numerous violations of their basic rights to health, education and protection. These are some of their stories:

A young girl, Amra, stands with her father in a displaced persons camp. Photo: Tarek Satea/CARE Tarek Satea/CARE

Amra, 11, Northwest Syria

When the conflict in Syria began, Amra lived in a big house with lots of toys. Her family was happy until an airstrike destroyed their home and injured Amra’s father. Shaken, Amra’s father packed his family into a car and moved them to another village.

Her mother enrolled her in school and Amra adjusted to the new neighbourhood. She played and made new friends, and then another airstrike hit and Amra’s friends were killed. The family moved again.

Amra restarted school and her grandmother gave her a toy for doing well. But it wasn’t long before another airstrike hit, killing another of Amra’s friends.
The family moved again, and again and again, finally ending up in a camp for displaced persons.

Although she has made lots of new friends in the camp, Amra misses her old ones. She is constantly afraid that the tent will fly off in the wind or catch fire and burn her siblings. Fetching water from far away water tanks is difficult chore for the little girl. Her hands hurt. But worst of all, school is held in a tent. Amra misses her old school. She tries to teach her friends the alphabet and everything she remembers.

Amra asks, “We, a whole generation, what is our crime that we must remain uneducated?”

A young girl, Hana, stands amidst a row of tents wearing her backpack in Azraq refugee camp. Shafak/CARE Shafak/CARE

Hana, 11, Northwest Syria

Hana was born at the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. When she was two years old, she and her family were forced to leave their home. Although she was quite young, she remembers her house had a beautiful swing and a garden with flowers and orange trees. Hana has fond memories of playing in the garden and going to the market with her mother.

“Our village was very beautiful. People used to visit from all over because of our beautiful parks,” she says.

Over the years, the family moved multiple times. For the last six months, they’ve been living in a camp in a mountainous region in Northwest Syria.

“I wish the war would stop so everyone could return home. I wish every child could go back to school and complete their education,” says Hana.

Hana attends school in the camp. She worries that the war or her living conditions will delay or put an end to her education. She loves to study English and dreams of becoming an English language teacher someday.

“I want to tell girls outside Syria that I love them so much. I would like to tell them that although we are living in a camp, we love school because we want to become architects, doctors and teachers,” she says. “I am proud of myself because with all the challenges we are facing, the war, displacement, no schools, I am still determined to become a teacher.”

A young girl, Bushra who is in a wheelchair, pictured with her mother in an informal settlement for displaced persons. Photo: Delil Souleiman/CARE Delil Souleiman/CARE

Bushra, 11, Northeast Syria

When she was just a toddler, Bushra’s mother discovered something worrying about her little girl. Bushra was born with a condition that prevented her from being able to use  her legs. With the conflict having broken out in Syria the same year Bushra was born, her treatment was put on hold.

Three years ago, Bushra, her mother, and four siblings fled with just the clothes on their backs to an informal settlement for displaced persons after shelling destroyed their home. Her parents having separated, Bushra’s mother is now the family’s sole breadwinner. With three children under the age of six, and Bushra needing help to get around, her mother has found it difficult to find work and feed the family.

“Bushra was so depressed and unhappy. Now she goes to the play center in the camp. She started to play. I am so happy to see her smile. My children had a good and stable life before the war. Now there’s no dignity, no security,” says Bushra’s mother.

A few months ago, Bushra broke both legs while attempting to transfer to another chair on her own. CARE has helped Bushra get a wheelchair so she can get around independently. She has also started school. Bushra has just three desires in life: to walk, become a teacher, and for the conflict to end.

Habiba, 11, Azraq camp, Jordan

Habiba is the eldest of five siblings. All she and her brothers and sisters have ever known is conflict.

When Habiba was almost two and a half years old, her family sought refuge in Jordan. The decision to leave their beloved homeland was difficult, but it was apparent they could no longer live in Syria. The family walked for hours in the wintery cold, eventually getting into a car that took them to the Jordanian border.

At Azraq camp, Habiba goes to school and has lots of friends. Her favourite subject is mathematics. She hopes to be a teacher one day.

Habiba loves spending time with her grandfather and learning to cook kibbeh with her mother. She also visits the CARE community center. Her favourite activity is drawing.

“I like to draw and use my imagination. It takes me to another world,” she says.

A young girl, Habiba, who lives in Azraq camp in Jordan, is pictured looking at the camera. Photo: Suhaib Al Jizawi/CARE Suhaib Al Jizawi/CARE

Police officers patrol the camp and for now, surrounded by her loved ones and favourite activities, the camp has all that Habiba needs.

“I feel safe here and I am happy. I only wish my father could get a job,” she says. “I don’t know if I would ever want to go back to Syria. My parents and grandfather talk about it every day. Syria is a green country, and we had a house there. My father and grandfather used to work, and we lived well. But my life is here.”

A young girl, Atiya, looks at the camera with a small smile. Photo: Patricia Khoder/CARE Patricia Khoder/CARE

Atiya, 11, Lebanon

Although she’s lived in Lebanon from the age of three, Atiya has a strong sense of identity.

“Even though we’ve been here for a long time, even though we have Lebanese friends and I go to school, we’re different. Our accent is different. I feel different from everyone else,” she says. “I’m not in my country and when you’re somewhere else, you never feel really safe.”

Atiya barely remembers Syria, She knows her native country only through stories told by her parents.

“I remember there were bombs, I remember the noises, the hisses and explosions. My parents say Syria was beautiful, that it was a good place to live. They tell me about the food, the shops, the parks and the walks we took. But I don’t really know,” she says.

She, her parents and four siblings live in Nabaa, a low income neighbourhood in the suburbs of Beirut. A few years ago, Atiya made a drawing of a house surrounded by a garden with a little girl in it.

“I imagined Syria and our house. My parents say our home was burnt down and the neighbourhood completely destroyed,” she says.

Her extended family is similarly torn apart, spread across Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Atiya dreams of peace being restored in Syria and of her family reuniting.

“Sometimes people ask me why I am still here, why I don’t go home. I want to shout to them: ‘Why don’t you understand? My country was destroyed where do you want me to go? I have nowhere to go,'” she says.

The crisis in Lebanon has made it difficult for Atiya’s parents to meet the family’s basic needs. CARE provided Atiya with a back-to-school kit at the beginning of the school year.

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