“Tell Me Your Story” – A project of the Goethe-Institut Istanbul in cooperation with young Syrian refugees
The Goethe-Institut has been confronting the refugee crisis, one of the crucial challenges of our time, with contributions to integration in Germany as well as with projects in important partner countries and host countries like Turkey. It is especially here that the Goethe-Institut bears great responsibility as an institution and bridge between two countries that are among those most severely affected by the refugee crisis. Since 2014, the Goethe-Institut Turkey has been developing and implementing various projects for the people who fled from the civil war in Syria and Iraq and came to Turkey. Children and young adults are among the important target groups, as are artists and filmmakers.
“Tell me your story” is a project of the Goethe-Institut Istanbul and is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Tell me your story” is a project of the Goethe-Institut Istanbul with narrative, literary and audio-visual elements. With story-telling techniques, with photography and in interviews, young Syrian refugees tell stories of their time before, during and after the escape from Syria to Turkey. These stories often show evidence of an absurd reality of life, between fragile normality and banal brutality. The stories and testimonies will feature permanently on the website of the Goethe-Institut Turkey. The Goethe-Institut Ankara also hosted an exhibition from December 5th to December 30th 2016, as well as a conference on December 6th 2016.
The Department of Information and Library at the Goethe-Institut Istanbul created the project in July 2016. At that date, Syrian refugees in Turkey already numbered over 2.7 million, according to UNHCR. That is also the context in which the motivation of the project should be viewed: with the number of refugees, which has been growing especially since 2013, the negative attitude and xenophobia of the local population has been increasing not only in Europe, but also in Turkey.
For the Syrian refugees who live outside of the refugee camps in Turkish cities, it is practically impossible to live a normal life, unencumbered by fear, intimidation and discrimination. The importance of a project like “Tell me your story,” which acts as a mediator between refugees and the host society and creates understanding and compassion instead of crude rejection, is obvious. The project documents the ordeals that children and young adults undergo during wartime, and continue to suffer, even when the escape from the warzone has been successful. With this project, the refugees, forced out of the public sphere in Turkey, are to be taken one step back into society.
“Tell me your story” was initiated in September 2016 with sixteen Syrian children and young adults living in the border town of Mardin. Professional trainers taught the young people the know-how and skills to narrate and document their stories in words and pictures. The outcomes of the workshops were interviews with anecdotes and recollections of the teens, as well as photographs and short texts, which, in combination, afforded a glimpse of their emotional and mental world.
On the Goethe-Institut Istanbul's website, the young people are portrayed with their photographs and recollections through interviews and texts: