Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Syrian 'war children' paid tribute to at Sarajevo museum

Young refugees are in focus at the War Childhood Museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina

A teddy bear is seen at the War Childhood Museum before an exhibition in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 'I got this teddy bear from my girlfriend Amira! Then the war came to our region. Amira moved to Damascus, and we lost contact. I don't know anything about her today', said Jaber who was born in 2005. REUTERS
A teddy bear is seen at the War Childhood Museum before an exhibition in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 'I got this teddy bear from my girlfriend Amira! Then the war came to our region. Amira moved to Damascus, and we lost contact. I don't know anything about her today', said Jaber who was born in 2005. REUTERS

Toys, house keys and diaries hang suspended from the ceiling or sit on plain white pedestals at Sarajevo's War Childhood Museum in a simple tribute to the children living in the shadow of the war in Syria.

Driven by memories of his own childhood during the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, founder Jasminko Halilovic has made the museum a treasure trove of personal items donated by those who were children then too.

A drawing of an aeroplane at the War Childhood Museum. 'I made this drawing of an airplane that I will someday take to see Syria from the sky', said Mohamad who was born in 2011. REUTERS
A drawing of an aeroplane at the War Childhood Museum. 'I made this drawing of an airplane that I will someday take to see Syria from the sky', said Mohamad who was born in 2011. REUTERS

He now wants to turn it into the world's biggest archive on wartime childhoods. Sunday's exhibition relied on items donated by children in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. A colourful keychain in the shape of sandal was given to the museum by 15-year-old Marwa.

"The keys opened the doors to the most beautiful house I have ever seen. My room had pink and green walls. Unfortunately, the house burned during the war, so we don't have the house anymore," she wrote.

'War children'

According to Unicef, there are 2.5 million Syrian refugee children living outside Syria and 2.6 million internally displaced.

'This Hulk was the first thing that I put in the bag when we moved to Lebanon," said Mouhamad, who was born in 2007. 'We could not bring many things because we had to walk through the mountains. I was scared a lot, especially when people threatened to kill us'. REUTERS
'This Hulk was the first thing that I put in the bag when we moved to Lebanon," said Mouhamad, who was born in 2007. 'We could not bring many things because we had to walk through the mountains. I was scared a lot, especially when people threatened to kill us'. REUTERS

"We want to show that war children are not only the passive victims, as we often see them, but also resilient survivors," Halilovic said. Having amassed more than 4,000 exhibits and over 150 hours of a video archive of oral history interviews, his team started collecting personal items from children affected by other wars, such as Syria, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

The Syrian collection was assembled with the help of Abed Moubayed, 35, from Aleppo, during his two-month internship with the museum, part of his masters degree programme in post-war recovery at the University of York.

"This is a chance for the Syrian children to raise their voices and tell the whole world about their experience and suffering. It is really important to show that history is repeating itself and we, all of us, need to do something to stop it," Moubayed, who left Syria in 2012, told Reuters.

"Syrian children have no idea what the future holds for them and you can see it from their stories."

The Bosnian 1992-95 war, which claimed 100,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people, was Europe's bloodiest since World War Two.

Updated: January 28, 2019 11:19 AM

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