“Artists in Exile: Forgotten Iraqi Refugees in Syria”: Interview with Mel Lehman of Common Humanity


“Syria hosts the largest number of Iraqi refugees who have fled their home since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.  Estimates as to how many refugees are huddled in Syria vary, but most organizations estimate that roughly 1.2-1.5 million Iraqis have staked a temporary claim on neighboring soil.  ‘Temporary,’ however, is a relative time-frame for the many vulnerable refugees.  Of those surveyed, 70 percent of Iraq’s displaced have been in Syria for more than four years; the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports that the organization has assisted only 163 refugees who went back to Iraq.  For most, home is just too unstable to justify a return.  While in Syria, Iraq’s refugees try to lead a normal life. In their sprawling hovels and camps, they shop, sew, cook, work, attend school, and play.  They are doctors, plumbers, tailors, singers, electricians, husbands, wives, and children.  And they are painters.” — Shaun Randol

For more information about Common Humanity, visit <www.commonhumanity.org>.  See, also, Shaun Randol, “Iraq’s Starving Artists” (The Mantle, 4 April 2011).


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