Tell me your story
Press Release

Beyond drums of war and writing of history: The testimonials of the project “Tell me your story” are exhibited in the Goethe-Institut Ankara

The project “Tell me your story” could be described as civil historiography: in the project, sixteen young Syrians who fled the civil war narrated their experiences, recollections and their present living conditions in Turkey in various ways – in interviews, photographs and texts.

With the support of the German Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe-Institut Istanbul organized several workshops in the town of Mardin in Southeastern Anatolia, in which the young people’s recollections of their time before, during and after their escape were discussed. Whereas at the time of their escape some years ago, most of them were children or teenagers between the ages of ten and fourteen, they are now young people aged fourteen to twenty, feeling robbed of their childhood, their home and their future.

The stories and narratives of the young Syrians also indicate that hope for a better Syria and a better future still survives. However, in their new home and situation, their prospects to go to school and develop further are generally poor.  For most of them, going to university is also a frivolity for now. That is the case for Lava Kasim, now twenty, who found refuge in Turkey with her mother and some of her sisters:

“There is an abyss inside us. Nothing can fill it. Going back to Syria is not everything in life, but I do want to go to school…  Right now, my sister is in Syria, in the middle of the war. Our life has stopped, and there is only half of it now.”

Alongside Lava and the other young people, seventeen-year-old Dersim relates her escape from Syria, and how the Islamic State treats the general public, while fifteen-year-old Eyad Hacmahmoud tells of the time he was hit by the fragments of an explosion at a bus station, thought he had been shot, and blacked out. The young people’s recollections and stories affect the observer – as do the innocent look in their eyes and their unsettled, yet hopeful voices.

But for “Tell me your story” not only were the recollections themselves important, but also how they were worked through. In the workshops, professional trainers showed the young people how to process their recollections in interviews as well as in words and pictures. Together with the teenagers, the storyteller Nilay Yilmaz wrote texts to accompany the photos they took in Mardin. The documentary filmmaker Ulaş Tosun produced interviews with moving anecdotes.

The narrations and testimonials make clear how especially young observers, with their sheer innocence and powerlessness, dramatically illustrate the brutality of war and the external conditions of their precarious living conditions. They allow for an honest and simple glance on the brutality and destruction of civil life that war brings, beyond power politics and geopolitical considerations. It is their destroyed dreams, their stolen childhoods and their desperate hopes for better times – in their own country, if they were to choose – that we should remember if we are to be able to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Curator: Harman Şaner Çakmak

“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.