‘In my garden, I feel like I’m in my kingdom’: the growing green spaces of Iraq’s refugee camps


Syrian refugee Aveen Ibrahim arrived at the Domiz camp after fleeing with her family from Damascus. Photo/ Dirk Jan Viss

‘I have run out of fingers on my hand to count the number of times a refugee has told me how they arrived [at the camp] with seeds. Imagine the presence of mind, in the midst of leaving everything they know, to still bring seeds in your pocket… to bring a little piece of home.’

Melanie Hunt
The National
August 5, 2018


As Syrian refugee Aveen Ibrahim, who fled with her family from Damascus, says: “In this camp, being so far away, you try to remember something from your life in Syria. You try to find the same seeds of plants and flowers, the same pets, so you feel at home and comfortable for a while.”

Khalid Ismael, meanwhile, has always loved gardens and birds, and compares his arrival in Domiz to an electric shock. “There was no tent for us at first, and some days all we had to eat was crackers and biscuits,” he recalls. “Then I decided I am going to create something beautiful here. In my garden, I feel like I am in my kingdom. It is proof that I still have something to give. And when I’ve finished gardening, I feel like I’ve got the world in my hand.”

Initiatives such as the gardening competition go beyond the daily grind of just surviving, and provide an additional source of income for refugees, including the many widows and their children who are present here. The provision of something as fundamental as seeds and plants helps to bring a sense of purpose to these fractured communities, and simultaneously works towards restoring their dignity, cultural identity and earning potential.

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