Letters to Syria portraits and letters addressed to the people of syria

Letters to Syria is ongoing collection of letters and portraits addressed to the Syrian people. An act of solidarity, a form of advocacy, and an attempt to restore hope.

Since the start of the Syrian Civil war in 2011, more than 400,000 Syrians have been killed. More than 4 million people have fled Syria, while an estimated 12.3 million are internally displaced. Both civilians and rebel fighters have been subjected to chemical weapons, bombings and other horrific acts of war. Ancient cities have been turned to dust, families are starving, children are dying, and those who have left are uncertain of their future. And the future of Syria.

The Syrian people continue to persevere, but suffer while much of the world has remained silent. This book is an act of solidarity, a sign to Syria that there are people who are listening and watching. It is a form of advocacy and an attempt to bring hope and restore dignity to a seemingly hopeless, broken situation.

Syria needs you to listen. Syria deserves your attention. Syria needs your help.

Syria. A place where individuals are fleeing for their lives. A place where fear is hiding around every corner. A place where buildings are destroyed and families are torn apart. A place where gun shots are heard daily and death is a reality. And yet… a place of beauty and restoration.

Dearest Syria,

In the midst of tragedy you have opened your arms to share the most beautiful part of your country with the world, YOUR PEOPLE. Through hearing the testimonys of your people, I have seen strength rise out of the nation. I have heard stories unfold of families pressing on through loss, children entering new schools, learning new languages, and families continue to love. This, to me, proves victory. Victory over death, victory over disaster.

Syria, while your nation and your heart may be broken, all eyes are on your people. You are teaching the world many things like:

  • Fight. And keep fighting. Even when it seems impossible.
  • Find the ones you love and cling to them above all else.
  • Keep an open heart and mind, even when all your other options have failed you.
  • Always hold onto hope, even when you cannot see it.

Your country and your people have changed the world forever.

Hannah, United States

I’ve been anxious as I think about writing this letter. I think that’s because I don’t feel qualified to speak – I have minimal understanding of what it feels like to be forced out of a country, of the unrest in the region, or even the particulars of the culture.

But I’m fighting against that feeling. My capacity for empathy must be greater than the fear that leads to division and sequestration. And I must be continually aware that each of you are more than refugees. You’re intelligent, passionate, principled, opinionated everyday people. Your patchwork of identities, traditions, heritages and experiences makes you uniquely valuable – as it does for any of us. And as such, you and I have so much of value to contribute to whatever culture we’ve found ourselves in. So, whoever you are, wherever you are, if I have anything to say about it: welcome.

Elliott, United States

Dear Syrian Refugees,

I am ashamed that my country has not done more to help you and your families. I and many other Americans are also angry for you. We are angry that there are those who denounce helping you because there “aren’t enough resources”, yet when it comes to propagating the very wars that have made you refugees, there is an exhaustive amount of resources. I want you to know that there are an abundance of Americans who reject this idea including myself, and who care about your struggle. There are many who are working not only to find the resources for you, but many who are also humanizing your cause so that others are aware and will make a difference.

I can understand that probably all you really want is your country, your livelihooods, your heritage, and most importantly, your families back. You never wished harm on anyone. You never wished to become a refugee. You never wished that you would one day have to ask for someone’s help. I could say that I feel sorry, but I know that at this point it means nothing. Saying that I feel sorry does nothing for you. Only action, any kind of action, is what you need, which is why in the process of writing this letter, I donated fifty dollars to the United Nations Children’s Relief Fund.

Lastly, I hope that we will continue to accept many more refugees because I believe that undoubtedly, immigrants, especially refugees, are the best investment that American society can make. We are a country of immigrants and as American history proves, it is with every new wave of immigrants that we become better. We need you more than you need us. We need you to remind us that different is good. We need you to teach us that our misconceptions are wrong. We need you because we can learn from your experiences, culture, and value. The hard lives that you have endured only means that you are empathetic when you come across someone less fortunate than you, you are open to those who are different from you, and you work harder than the rest for a better life. As an American, and as a son whose father survived the Lebanese civil war and immigrated to America, I know that we need more of you.

Your friend and advocate,

Adam, United States

Dear Friends,

I’m so glad my naturally introverted husband did something contrary to his nature – he offered you a ride home one day from work at the library. From one simple act of kindness, a beautiful friendship has formed.

I am so glad we became like family to each other those short years you were at Purdue. We shared holidays together – from the 4th of July to breaking the fast for Ramadan. I have so many wonderful memories of shared conversation over delicious meals and cups of tea. I learned I loved kefta and baklava, and I introduced you to Midwest classics of pot roast and mashed potatoes. With each meal it became less about our natural curiosities about different cultures and more about good friends sharing life together.

Being your friends made what was happening in Syria personal. If I am honest, when I hear on the news such atrocities against humankind on the scale of Syria – I usually black it out. It’s too hard to process – too overwhelming to try and empathize. I might say a prayer to the loving God I believe in, but not begin to fathom where He is in the midst of the pain and suffering. But your friendship kept me from turning a blind eye. My heart broke for the fear in your faces for your family. I didn’t know what to say, my friend, when your brother was killed, but know I grieved with you. The most difficult thing to witness was seeing your despair grow for your country and believe it is beyond hope. How you two, who are incredibly talented, passionate leaders are exactly what Syria needs, but you can’t return home without fear for your life because you dared to dream your country could be different and free.

You have taught me what a Syrian refugee can mean for your life – amazing blessing and friendship. You have taught me the beauty of the Syrian people, their culture, their intelligence, and their perseverance despite such suffering. You are some of the best people we know and you are our dear friends.

I can’t help to think if everyone in America could put down their fear and actually take time to know a Syrian refugee, this refugee crisis would be over. The would understand not only the serious tragedy the Syrian people have undergone and respond, but they would also see how their lives could forever be changed for the better by gaining an amazing friend.


Dana, United States

To a little boy in Aleppo,

I watched you kiss your dead brother’s cheek, and I cried for you. I just wanted you to know that I saw you, heard you, and felt with you. I can’t truly empathize and can barely even imagine your day-to-day reality, let alone your pain, fear, and frustration… and I don’t pretend to know you because I don’t, but I see you – that you are strong, that your brave, that you are loyal and resilient, and that you have had to grow up much too fast.

You’re a good brother. You will always be a good brother and death does not take that from you. You can’t give him back his life, but you will honor and love him with yours. And, years from now, I pray that you won’t have forgotten how to laugh, that you’ll remember what it is to play.

“and death is at your doorstep,

and it will steal your innocence,

but it will not steal your substance…

you are not alone in this and

you are not alone in this.

As brothers we will stand and we will hold your hand,

hold your hand”

Jess, United States

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