At age 13, Rayan fled with his family when ISIS invaded his home town of Shingal (also called Sinjar) in Northern Iraq. As Yazidis, they knew they would face certain death at the hands of this terrorist group.
Here in the mountains, though, things weren’t much better. Other children who had fled him died of thirst. There was no food or water, and they had been there for a week.
If only he had a camera, Rayan thought, he could show the world what was happening to his people.
Eventually they made their way to Dohuk, near the Turkish border. They spent a year there before crossing over into Turkey. They stayed at refugee camps in Diyarbakir and later Midyat. Conditions were better than in the mountains, obviously, but life was still difficult. Access to things like education and healthcare was limited.
If only he had a camera, Rayan thought, he could tell his and his people’s story to the world.
Refugees were only allowed out of the camps for a few hours at a time. Still, Rayan was an ambitious young man. Even though his access to education was limited, he had managed to learn enough English to carry on a conversation. He used this to talk to various journalists who came to the area, and he alway tried to strike up a conversation when he saw anyone with a camera.
One day as he wandered around Midyat, he went to the town’s Peace and Brotherhood Park. That’s how I met him- he simply came up and asked about the camera I was using.
He asked me to take his picture, and I was happy to do so. I had to leave Midyat and return to Istanbul, but we stayed in touch. One day, he told me about how he wanted a camera to tell the world his story.
I started a GoFundMe to get him a new DSLR camera, entitled “Help Rayan Tell His Story.” ( https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/help-rayan-tell-his-story/ )
In spite of everything he’s faced, he wants to get the best education he can and develop his talents. He is a brilliant and ambitious young man.
I believe he’ll do great things, given the chance..
Who knows? Maybe one day, years from now, you’ll see his work show up somewhere and think to yourself, “I helped him get started!”
Originally published at www.boredpanda.com