Since Syria’s civil war began in March 2011, over 2 million people seeking sanctuary from the raging violence have fled to neighboring countries like Jordan and Iraq. The chaos and violence have given rise to a noticeable increase in mental illness in displaced refugees, particularly among the youth. With over half of the refugee population under the age of 18, the psychological and emotional stability of Syria’s exiled youth is of particular concern. A generation whose homeland once boasted a middle-class economy with over 90% school enrollment has personally witnessed the shattering of their lives, and now finds itself displaced and traumatized.
This series reveals the turbulent lives of Syria’s displaced youth in Iraq and Jordan. Working alongside the International Medical Corps (IMC) – a humanitarian non-profit organization that provides aid and relief to those affected by conflict and crisis – these photographs intimately illustrate the plight of this lost generation. IMC strives to increase awareness and improve the physical and mental health of young refugees plagued by depression, fear, suffering, and the sense of a life turned upside down. The youth residing in these refugee camps represent part of Syria’s next generation; one stuck in limbo in a foreign land with diminishing hope to return.
Reem, 13, spends time with her siblings in her family tent at the Al Za’atri refugee camp for Syrians, near Mafraq, Jordan on Nov. 18, 2013. Reem is a Syrian refugee suffering from mental health issues. She has been living in a tent at the Za’atri camp since January 2013.
Children gather in an enclave of tents at the Al Za’atri refugee camp for Syrians near Mafraq, Jordan on Nov. 25, 2013.
A refugee family squeezes into a car at the Domiz Camp for Syrian Refugees just outside of Dohuk, Iraq on Nov. 23, 2013.
A Syrian refugee, Muna, 16, makes a phone call outside her family tent located in the desert of Ereinbeh, Jordan on Nov. 14, 2013.
Young refugees build a fire as the sun sets in the desert between the Syrian and Iraqi borders in Ereinbeh, Jordan on Nov. 14, 2013.
Refugee children gather by the fire in the middle of the desert between the Syrian and Iraqi borders in Ereinbeh, Jordan on Nov. 14, 2013.
Sumaya, 15, shops for clothes in a local shop in Mafraq, Jordan on Nov. 14, 2013. The previous night, her family tent was robbed at gunpoint and all of their belongings were stolen.
Aya, 12, stands in the doorway of her home in Amman, Jordan on Nov. 15, 2013. She suffers from mental health issues that have been exacerbated by being a refugee and living through the war.
Rihab, 37, is interviewed in her family tent at the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees outside of Dohuk, Iraq on Nov. 24, 2013. Rihab fled Damascus, Syria with her husband and three daughters more than one year ago.
Mohammed, 42, and his wife Rihab, 37, withdraw to their family tent at the Domiz Camp for Syrian Refugees just outside of Dohuk, Iraq on Nov. 24, 2013.
Bilal, 14, a Syrian refugee, plays on his cell phone in the family tent in the middle of the desert in Ereinbeh, Jordan on Nov. 16, 2013. His parents made him leave Syria with his three sisters to avoid conscription into the Free Syrian Army.
Mazgen, 19, who is physically and mentally ill, rests in her family’s tent with her parents in the Domiz Refugee camp, outside of Dohuk, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2013.
A group of refugee men play a marble game in an isolated enclave of tents in Ereinbeh, Jordan on Nov. 16, 2013. Refugees in the camp pass time working on the adjacent farm, doing chores, or hanging out by their tents.
Children hang festive decorations in the Domiz Refugee camp for Syrians, in Dohuk, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2013.
A mother dries her son after a bath in the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees in Dohuk, Iraq on November, 23, 2013.
Lamia, 13, and Sumaya, 15, wash dishes outside their tent in the middle of the desert in Ereinbeh, Jordan on Nov. 16, 2013.
A young girl enjoys a lollipop while watching shoppers in the Domiz Camp for Syrian Refugees in Dohuk, Iraq on Nov. 23, 2013.
Reem, 13, sits in a class at the UNICEF school, in the Al Za’atri refugee camp for Syrians, near Mafraq, Jordan on Nov. 18, 2013.
Refugee children peer in through the window at the International Medical Corps (IMC) facility in the Domiz Camp for Syrian Refugees near Dohuk, Iraq on Nov. 22, 2013.
A young boy looks out over the Domiz Refugee camp, in Dohuk, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2013. There are approximately 40,000 Syrian refugees at this camp as a result of the Syrian civil war.
This story appears in:
OmVärlden (Sweden), March 2014.
Time LightBox, January 23, 2014.
National Geographic Proof, May 16, 2014.
View the companion video piece here.