Abdulazez Dukhan is one of those unique individuals who seems to build meaningful relationships with everyone he crosses paths with, and turn groups of strangers into groups of close friends. The happiness he exudes is infectious when he brings people together. Abdulazez is also remarkably adept at bridging cultural and linguistic divides that usually keep most of us at arm’s length from one another. He is quick to identify what makes us the same and to show a path towards understanding, despite our varied backgrounds.

I first met Abdulazez in spring 2016 while he was living with his family at EKO gas station turned informal camp for refugees in northern Greece. He had fled Homs, Syria, along with his siblings and parents. Eventually, they had made their way to the Greece-Macedonia border but were halted as countries in the Balkans closed their borders. For Abdulazez and his family, the closure of borders over a year ago, has left them living in limbo in Greece as they maneuver the complex European Union legal system and international migration management mechanisms.

Abdulazez has worked tirelessly to get his and other refugees’ stories told. While fleeing Syria, Abdulazez became determined to document his experiences and build a platform for those similarly leaving home in search of safety to share their realities. He taught himself photography and graphic design using borrowed equipment. Initially, he shared his art through his personal Facebook page, then started the page Through Refugee Eyes. He began the independent photography project in April 2016, while he was still living at EKO. The photographs, writing, and art he and other refugees create is accessible through the project’s Facebook page and Instagram account. Here is an excerpt from a recent posting:

I lived in a refugee camp for 5 months
I had so much free time and I didn’t want to lose any of it so I started volunteering

I wanted to to do more things
I had support from volunteers I had been working with and they helped me get a laptop so that I 17636764_495269294196179_7898789373758395719_owas able to do work on my graphic art, and then others helped me to get camera and I started learning photography

I decided to start a Facebook page to just to be able to contact with people
to show them my photography and tell them stories
and that how I created Through Refugee Eyes

friends supported me with better equipment and I was happy to be able to learn more, others have done exhibitions and they made me feel I am not alone
I started going to many refugees camps around Greece for photography and I started sharing stories

Today I can see Through Refugee Eyes has more than 11,000 followers
thank you for being a part of it

As a new step for Through Refugee Eyes, I will keep going with the photographs, in the future I’ll try to help people the same way I found people who helped me.

Through Refugee Eyes will not stop
My story is just begun..

Abdulazez has summed up his project’s mission succinctly, “They always talk about us – but this time we want to talk about ourselves.” We invite you now to learn from those who have been able to take back the refugee narrative and tell their own stories, Through Refugee Eyes.

By Mariah Grant