"I feel the pull of the past once again. I hear my ancestors calling to me. I had met them on the shores of the sea, walked with them on muddy roads and through cornfields. And it dawned on me, as the refugees moved further away from Syria, in search of a new life elsewhere, I moved closer to finding myself again."
FLIGHT OF THE REFUGEES SERIES
As a filmmaker and Syrian-American, I felt I needed to document the journey of the Syrian refugees. These films take an important look into a very real problem that is simply not being addressed by traditional news and media sources. It puts a human face on an international crisis, at a time when a little bit of humanity can mean the difference between life and death.
When protests, inspired by the Arab Spring, started in Syria back in March of 2011, I truly believed reform might be possible. I thought, maybe there's a new future for Syria, a democratic one. But when the protesters began to face gunfire, I started to run for peace for Syria. I'd wake up every morning, reflect about my own life, say a prayer for Syria and run 5 to 7 miles. As the body count of the protesters rose, I just kept running.
The rumors of an exodus from Syria emerged in late 2013. Images began to surface of refugees taking boats across the Aegean Sea, walking to Macedonia, continuing on through the fields of Serbia and Hungary, and then finally arriving in Austria. Empowered by the success of these first Syrian refugees, thousands followed. Even after hearing stories of minefields, bandits, hazardous terrain, and starvation, these people were willing to risk it all in hope of a new life. And so I ran for them, for their safety.
In August of 2015, the Hungarian government started to crack down on the refugees entering their country, refusing to transport them from the capital, Budapest, to the Austrian border. In response, the refugees did what they could. They just walked. I called my cousin, Sam Jarjour, and said, "We need to do something". We booked plane tickets without a clear idea of what would be doing, and our journey began.