The Psyche of Syria's War Survivors

15-year-old Syrian journalist Muhammad Najem documented war, giving his life purpose. Speaking in English to a Western audience, his selfie-videos covered the Syrian regime’s battle in the besieged enclave of his village in Eastern Ghouta in March 2018. Shortly after, his family was forced to evacuate to Idlib on a bus convoy, and eventually, he ended up in Istanbul as an asylum seeker.

Even though Najem is in Istanbul safe from the Assad regimes’ bombs, his mind continues to be absorbed by the precarious situation of his country. Najem’s story sheds light on how war is experienced by its survivors even when that war is allegedly over. This issue has received little to no international coverage: the common narrative states that the conflict is winding down. Yet, the indiscriminate Syrian-Russian bombing campaign occurring in Idlib right now—where half of Muhammad’s family is based—shatters these illusions and causes inordinate mental health issues for many, with teens being the most vulnerable.

This project looks at the mental health consequences endured by a child social media icon and more generally at the psychological picture of Syrians under increased Assad regime bombardment or who have family living there. How are people coping with these horrors and sense that their life is worthless? Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and is concerned the current attack on Idlib will push another major influx of refugees. Yet, are time and resources of Turkish civil society devoted only to security? And are there any left for addressing mental health issues?

Syria’s Teen Documentarian

Muhammad Najem became a celebrity for his video reports from his war-racked hometown of Eastern Ghouta in Syria. Now displaced to Istanbul, he wants desperately to get back home and continue his work.