“My name is Lamia. I am from Deeralzor, in Syria,” said the young woman in the courtyard of the Urfa Community Centre. She moved to Sanliurfa, Turkey, with her family 18 months ago. But it was not a direct journey. 3½ years ago, with no end in sight for the Syrian conflict, her family fled for their lives.
Concerned, I asked if her whole family made it out safely.
“Yes, thank goodness,” Lamia confirmed. Her father, mother, two brothers and two sisters now live together in Urfa, as the town is commonly known. Their journey included many places on the way to safety. Lamia was only 15 years old when they left. First, they fled to the Syrian countryside. Then, they spent two years in Raqqa, Syria. Finally, they moved to Urfa, Turkey, where they have lived for over a year. Lamia is now an avid participant in all of the artistic classes the centre offers, primarily to Syrians refugees. Art offers a way for her to continue learning and forget the conflict, since she is not enrolled in school in Turkey.
Before she left Syria, Lamia completed her 3rd year of middle school. Since then, she has not been able to attend school. Many Syrian children in Turkey do not school, because there are not enough facilities, and they do not speak fluent Turkish. Even so, Lamia sat for her high school exams in Turkey, hoping to earn her certificate. Unfortunately, without the opportunity to study, she didn’t pass the exams. Instead, she pours herself into artistic classes at the centre. I was drawn to her powerful paintings, which were displayed in the third floor arts room.
“You are a talented artist, Lamia. Who is this boy, and what were you trying to express with this painting?” I pointed to a picture of crying boy, standing in front of a pile of rubble.
“This painting means more than one thing,” Lamia explained. “First, it depicts the killing and bombing in Syria. It also expresses the suffering of the children, because that affects me deeply. He cannot play, or live life anymore.”
“Is this a boy you know?”
“No. He represents all the children of Syria.”
Several of Lamia’s paintings are displayed at the centre, and she has done many more. Some of them depict Syria, others depict violence against women. She takes as many classes as she can at the centre, including painting, photography, digital storytelling, plus English lessons. I asked her how she feels when she is painting.
“I have a perfect feeling when I am drawing. It allows me to express my feelings.”
“Is there one picture that is especially meaningful to you?”
“Yes, one of my uncle. It’s at home. He died in the war.”
“I am so sorry.” My heart goes out to this young, talented woman. The fact that conflict inspires much of her art should not be the reality.