Stories told by vulnerable refugees sheltering in Egypt from turmoil in their home countries have impacted SAT-7’s viewers, prompting a vast outpouring of compassion and care.
Refugee Tales consists of 25 short social media documentaries featuring people of all ages and from several countries in the Middle East. The series achieved remarkable viewing levels. Most importantly, a flood of positive messages on social media, including encouragements, prayers and even offers of help, showed how deeply viewers were affected.
The refugees recounted painful stories of family members separated, killed, jailed, and missing, of homes bombed, of surviving rape, kidnap, and torture. They also highlighted the exploitation, isolation, and prejudice experienced by so many migrants in their adopted countries.
Nashwan* from Iraq worked for the army and police, so he became a prime target after so-called Islamic State overran his area in 2014. When the fighters threatened to kill him and his family, they fled hastily – like thousands of others – to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
More recently, the family moved to Egypt. Iraqis in the country struggle to secure residential papers, and consequently, Nashwan’s four daughters have been unable to enroll in school. He has to find work as a laborer, and sometimes there is none.
After hearing the family’s traumatic story and seeing how close-knit they are, many viewers posted messages of encouragement, and at least two offered practical or financial help.
The story of Ashwaq also touched viewers. Born in Sudan, she graduated in psychology and pre-school education and came to Egypt in search of work. But despite her university qualifications, she could only find employment there as a home caretaker. The money she earns is barely enough to pay the rent and make ends meet. Instead of offering support or friendship, people in the street harass her because she is a single mother.
But Ashwaq faces these challenges and difficulties bravely.
I try not to focus on what I do not have, but rather on the beautiful things that I have, such as my child and the blessing of being in good health. I try to show care to all those around me as much as I can.
A viewer in Algeria encouraged Ashwaq: “Don’t despair, sister, trust God and draw close to Him in prayer.”
Another viewer said, “You are the bravest woman I have ever seen and the most optimistic; God bless.” A third said, “You are a hero; God is with you, and He will never abandon you.”
The short documentaries show tenacity and resilience. The films include the stories of two sisters who started a skills and learning foundation for women, how a Syrian musician began choirs, offered music therapy, and opened a café, and how a young Syrian woman became involved in running integration workshops for fellow refugees when she was just 15.
Refugee Tales is part of a wider SAT-7 project, funded by the Norwegian Mission Society, to bring positive change by promoting the rights of marginalized people in the Arab world. A key aim has been to stimulate public discussion through media such as Refugee Tales.
*Names changed for security.