I came across this video the other day by Australia for UNHCR (the UN’s Refugee Agency). It featured one of my favorite authors of all time, Khaled Hosseini, and followed him during a visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq. Hosseini is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR and was a refugee himself. Aside from being a best-selling author, he also raises money and awareness for refugee families in Afghanistan through his organization, The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.
I have always eagerly awaited Khaled Hosseini’s new releases ever since finishing The Kite Runner years ago. His writing is so powerful and relatable because he brings an unmistakable humanity to his characters. Rather than lumping together those marginalized by war and suffering, as the media is understandably apt to do when trying to provide broad coverage of an issue, he draws out the story of a few individuals that make us remember these are people like any of us, who have hopes and dreams and wish to better their lives. By visiting the refugee camp, he seems to be doing just that, bringing a voice to people who refuse to be defined by their situation.
During his visit to the Syrian refugee camp, Khaled Hosseini met two young, inspiring women, Payman and Nayleen. Payman is only 16 and is a writer at heart, but Hosseini explains that she can’t go school and follow her dream, which is a massive blow to her hope and self-esteem. Nayleen has a beauty salon in a tent, which she says is a way for her to help her family and gives her purpose. Both women appear strong in the face of their situation, and both continue to do what they love despite their circumstances.
As Hosseini walks around the camp, he observes the “suspended existence” these people seem to be in. They can’t go to school, work, or pursue their goals. Their lives have been reset at zero, as if their former lives and accomplishments never existed. They now deal with the psychological impacts of feeling helpless and like they are just burdens. He explains these people are an embodiment of the Syrian civil war and the loss that’s been done, as their dreams have been taken from them. However, he ends on a hopeful note. These people are still going on with their lives despite the losses they’ve suffered, and they continue to be driven by the very human need to pursue happiness where they can.
I hope there will be an end to this war soon, so these people can get back to rebuilding their lives and following their dreams. I hope one day I can read stories written by Payman. I hope that Payman and Nayleen and all the victims of the war won’t become a lost generation defined by needless suffering and the bitterness of fading dreams.
Until next time…