Three comic strips created by a British anthropologist telling the stories of Syrians fleeing their homeland and arriving in Europe will be launched this week at theNobel Peace Centre in Oslo.
The trilogy of comics, which were created by Benjamin Dix and illustrator Lindsay Pollock, tell the stories of Khalid, Mohammad and Hasko, three Syrian men who fled their homeland and made their way to Europe.
Dix began collecting the stories of refugees, some of whom were in refugee camps, and those of people-smugglers in 2013 in the hope he might present a human story to accompany news reports of the millions of people fleeing Syria.
Earlier this year a Norwegian NGO commissioned Dix to turn the stories into comics that might encourage the Norwegian government to let more Syrian refugees into the country. “Four weeks into the project, the European migration crisis, refugee crisis, whatever you call it, unravelled, so this was suddenly a front-page comic book,” said Dix.
The comics, which depict torture, incarceration and other hardships endured by the men while in Syria and on their journeys to Scandinavia, are created carefully with significant consultation between Dix and the subjects.
“Through just five pages of a comic you can really get to know a character much more than in a news soundbite or in a photograph. It’s about humanising these refugee stories. You get to know that Hasko is a dad and an artist and a husband. Syria is a story that saturates our media. My job is a privileged job, to meet the people behind the headlines,” Dix said.
The three comics have also been turned into short animations, which will be shown at the peace centre. The animations were created by Wael Toubaji, a Syrian animator who has just received asylum in Copenhagen.
An estimated 12.5 million Syrians have fled their homes since the conflict began in 2011; roughly 7.5 million are internally displaced and about 5 million have left the country. The Syrian conflict initially began as protests against President Bashar al-Assad in the wave of the Arab spring uprisings, but after violent crackdowns on protesters the situation escalated into a civil war between rebels and the military. The death toll is believed to have exceeded 300,000.
Four million Syrians are refugees, most of whom are living in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are often stretched to breaking point and unable to provide adequate food and healthcare. In 2015,more than 700,000 Syrian refugees travelled to Europe, often risking their lives in dangerous sea crossings.