Produced by Professor Brian Brivati, The Stabilisation and Recovery Network and Dr Meg Jensen, Director, Centre for Life Narratives, Kingston University

According to statistics from the UNHCR (2016) we are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. Every day, nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced.

On February 21st 2017 we asked a number of front-line human rights workers for a filmed diary, a record of a Day in their Shoes

We gave no other instruction or direction about what they should film or how, or how long their final diary should be. In response we received the six pieces of film in different formats; some recorded live on smart phones, some constituting still images with recorded transcripts.

The stories are compelling: they are personal, confessional and revelatory of individual suffering and traumatic experiences. They are deeply human. Some diarists wanted to share their identities and others did not.

Some films take the form of political appeal, humanitarian outreach and philosophical enquiry. In one case, the film diary is simply a fly on the wall view of a day in the life of one Syrian woman’s day with her family in Lebanon, with virtually no editorial intervention. Despite these differences, the diary form surfaces in each of these shapes and works to emphasise the value of individual voice and its ability to reach out across the otherwise impassable chasm between our experiences and theirs. 

The story telling form helps compassion fatigue disappear as the unimaginable statistics become men, women and children, and “refugees” a real voice sounding in our heads. Living their lives in the spaces between states.

These videos comprise an exhibit commissioned by King’s College London for 

“Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants”

26th May – 7th July 2017,

Somerset House East Wing

Amal from Homs, Syria to Lebanon

Amal from Homs, Syria to Lebanon Diary as Narrative of Illness, Poverty, Exclusion. With Subtitles By Nadine Saba of Akkar Network for Development in Lebanon

Angelina from Damascus

Diary of the day she wished she had died. She did not wish to be filmed. Her story has been translated and is read by the rights worker who interviewed her. Film by Naka Alkhzraji of Faiths Forum for London

From the Lives of Camp ‘Prisoners’: Life in German Refugee Camps

Diary of still images and reflections by Azeri exile and composer turned translator and rights worker on what it means to “Say yes to life” to the thousands of refugees from dozens of countries currently living in a German Refugee Camp. Film by Elmir Mirzoev

Shoes, Iraqi Kurdistan to Germany

Stories collected from Yazidi women and girls from Kurdistan who escaped enslavement by DAESH (ISIS), using images of the shoes in which they fled. Translated and voiced by rights workers from the Wadi organisation in Kurdistan using stories and shoes collected by Falah Shakarm. Film by Siemon Scamell-Katz

Diar from Hama, Syria to Lebanon

Diary with minimal editing of a morning in the life of a woman living with her children in a camp in Lebanon. With subtitles. Film by Nadine Saba of Akkar Network for Development in Lebanon

Elias Diab, Unicef in Yemen

Diary appeal for help from UNICEF aid worker, 2017 Film by Elias Diab

The Last Optimist in Baghdad by Brian Brivati

He is wearing a three-piece suit. His tie matches his breast pocket handkerchief. This might not be so remarkable. What completes the picture and sums up the miracle of survival that is Iraq, is that the frame of his glasses also matches his tie and his handkerchief. He woke at 4am to drive throughout several check points to meet me off the plane and tie me to a day of meetings. After we finish at the end of the day, it might take him two hours to drive home from the I. Z. But, his glasses match his tie, match his handkerchief.

Alhurra Newsreel of TSRN Sexual Violence Workshop in Iraq

TSRN are implementing a programme of workshops for the FCO in Iraq supporting the UK government’s commitment to combatting the stigma suffered by survivors of sexual violence in conflict. This news report from Alhurra TV covers the theatre workshop which explored the use of culture as a means of raising awareness of sexual violence and as a means of personal recovery. The report features the Omar Theatre Company from Baghdad using theatre workshop techniques to show policy makers and civil society activists the power of cultural approaches to these issues.

With thanks to: Linda Mason (subtitles / editing) and Laura Cretney (translation for subtitles)