Alone in Iraq: What’s next for Syrian refugees?

Refugees like Zana are often left alone with no family to turn to. Photo: Sarah Pilchick/Save the Children
Refugees like Zana* are often left alone with no family to turn to. Photo: Sarah Pilchick/Save the Children

After his world was torn apart by the effects of war, Zana* was forced to flee his home in Amuda, Syria, in 2013.  Now his days in a refugee camp in northern Iraq are lonely and monotonous.

Sixteen-year-old Zana has a brother, but he works away for weeks at a time. So Zana sits alone in a concrete room, unable to leave for fear of losing the few things he has left. Going to ‘school’ would mean leaving his hut so now Zana’s missing out on his education too.

We spoke to Zana to understand how he copes without any family to care for him.

Forced to leave

“We left Syria in 2013. My mother had already been killed in a bombing in Damascus. My father decided we should leave when I was shot in the foot. We left the next day.”

A perilous journey

Zana had to travel out of Syria with his injured foot, first heading for the border before finally catching a bus.

“[My father, brother and I] walked to the border from our home. It took three hours. It was very hard to walk. From the border we took a bus. I have not left the camp since 2013.”

“We used to be in a tent, which was very bad during the winter. We were there for two years. We moved into this room a year ago but it was very small for three people.”

Orphaned and alone

An orphan, Zana lives alone while his brother works as a painter in a nearby town. Many families like theirs have been separated by the conflicts in Syria and surrounding areas.

“I have no friends here. I am very angry. I see other families and am angry and sad. I miss my parents.”

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Bored and with no company, Zana has been in the Qushtapa camp since 2013. Photo: Sarah Pilchick/Save the Children
Bored and isolated, Zana has been a refugee in northern Iraq since 2013. Photo: Sarah Pilchick/Save the Children

No education or company

Zana has lost all that is dear to him, but like most children, he has dreams for his future.

“I have not gone to school since we left Syria. I had to go to work when we got to the camp. I worked with water distribution trucks.”

“I miss school. I want to go, but my mobile phone was stolen last time I left the room. My brother is away, and if I leave everything else will be stolen too.”

“My favourite subject is football. My favourite player is Ronaldo. I love Real Madrid. I am also a very good goalie.”

“I like reading. I want to go to university and be a teacher.”

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*Name changed to protect identity.

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