Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry refugee children's drawings show reality of war

Maryan Alako Image copyright Maryam Alako
Image caption Maryam Alako told of her experience in worn-torn Iraq

The reality of living in a warzone and being uprooted from home has been portrayed in drawings by young refugees.

Up to 40 youngsters were involved in a project to share their stories of growing up under siege, and the results feature in new books.

The children told of routinely hearing gunshots, "life or death situations" and the joy of now feeling safe.

The storytellers are living in Coventry after being moved from Iraq and Syria.

Maryam Alako, 18, drew a picture of a house being bombed and her terrified family surrounded by a tank and helicopter, their arms held aloft.

She said it reflected the harsh reality of life back at home.

Speaking through an interpreter, she told the BBC: "I wanted to show the life or death situation my family was in. It was terrible. It was dangerous and many people had to leave their homes.

"We are thinking about others who have been through or are going through what it was like for us.

"Life is very different in Coventry. I'm thinking about working for the police."

Her story, titled The Flower of Sadness, was part of the Picture Book project, run by Coventry University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Halifax, Canada.

Image caption Maryam Alako created The Flower of Sadness

Lara Ataallah, 15, from Iraq, created a fictional story about a girl called Lucy with magical powers.

She said: "It is important to share the experience of being a refugee as many people don't understand what it was like.

"I heard the sound of shooting many times. It was scary."

Image copyright Lara Ataallah
Image caption Lara Ataallah's story showing the bloodshed which meant her family had to leave their homes
Image caption Lara Ataallah put together 'My life and everything is possible'

Siblings Mohammed Alshaebi, brother Mustafa, and their sister Layla, are from Syria.

Mustafa, nine, drew a military aircraft circling the sky. Alongside it was his wish to return to his home country.

"I wanted my picture to show I am thinking about home, but it is very dangerous," he said.

Image copyright Mustafa Alshaebi
Image caption Mustafa Alshaebi said people are still being killed in Syria

Mohammed, 11, wanted to express his joy at living in a new city.

"I'm feeling happy now. There are more opportunities here."

Layla, 12, added: "People don't have much back home and I wanted to show that in the book."

Image copyright Mohammed Alshaebi
Image caption Mohammed Alshaebi said he was happy the book had been published
Image copyright Layla Alshaebi
Image caption Layla Alshaebi wanted to tell of the poverty in Syria

The youngsters, aged between eight and 19, worked with local artists to tell tales from their cultures.

Dr EJ Milne, senior research fellow at Coventry University said: "They have been able to share their stories as a way to build understanding and give recognition to their skills and potential, and we hope it will help build a better understanding of their circumstances."

The life experiences told in stories are available at libraries in Coventry and Canada.

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