Photo essay: Syrian refugee children tell their stories

Armed with cameras and a bit of training, Syrian refugee children seek to tell the world their stories

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© Mohammad Husein, 15 years old when the workshops began. Syrian Refugee Camp, Kawergosk, Kurdistan, Iraq.
Photograph created as part of the five-year project Exile Voices, launched in December 2013 by Reza to train refugee children in the camps in photography.
Mohammad Husein, aged 17, captures two little girls playing in a wheelbarrow at the Kawergosk refugee camp. Despite adversity, children continue to play and live.

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Children aged 11 to 15 took these photos. Living in a Syrian refugee camp in Kurdistan, they received their cameras and training from Reza Deghati, a National Geographic photographer who started a not-for-profit to teach photography to refugees in three camps. “I don’t give them any specific instruction,” says Deghati, “but I reprogram their brains about photography. I say, ‘Through this tool, you will tell to the world, how do you live? What’s happening to you?’ ”

The children take pictures of their lives, sometimes using mirrors as props, and compile them into a project called Exile Voices. If the photos make a profit, the children will split it. Deghati communicates with them by email through an adult assistant he trained while visiting the camp. “I do believe the story told by the people living the story is different than by the professional photographer,” he says.