'Humans of New York' tells heartbreaking story of Syrian refugees

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"The island we landed on was called Samothrace. We were so thankful to be there. We thought we'd reached safety. We...

Posted by Humans of New York on Sunday, September 27, 2015


Popular Facebook and Instagram photo-series Humans of New York typically features stories of nameless inhabitants living in the Big Apple. But for the next week or so, photographer Brandon Stanton is heading into the heart of the refugee crisis, highlighting personal stories of Syrian refugees who have made their way to Europe.

"Together, these migrants are part of one of the largest population movements in modern history," Stanton wrote in an introductory post on Friday. "But their stories are composed of unique and singular tragedies."

Stanton plans to feature several refugees and aid workers as he travels across Europe, but first, the photographer started by telling the story of Muhammad, a displaced Syrian he met last year in Iraqi Kurdistan. A lot has happened to Muhammad in a year's time.

In a series of six photos, Muhammad shared his story, including the loss of a family member—his brother—at the hands of the Islamic State. Nearly a quarter of a million people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it broke out in 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

After paying a smuggler to take him to Europe, Muhammad survived a journey on plastic boat with a faulty motor before landing on a Greek island. Others haven't been so lucky. A haunting image of a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned while taking a similar journey from Turkey into Greece—along with thousands of other migrants who have gone missing or died while attempting to cross into Europe this year—indicates just how dangerous this journey can be. And when people like Muhammad do make it, they aren't always welcomed with open arms.

More than 160,000 migrants have arrived in Greece in 2015, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. The influx of migrants has created tension among the European Union. With no end to the conflict in sight, countries like Greece, Germany, and Hungary are struggling to adequately care for asylum seekers.

However, Muhammad's story ends on a happy note. After living in Austria for seven months, he officialy became a citizen.

Muhammad's pictures have been shared and liked hundreds of thousands of times, with several followers noting how his story will forever change their perspective.

"I promise to remember this mans story and the millions I'll never hear," wrote Facebook user Rachel Harary, "to keep perspective and be thankful every day."

See the original Facebook post below:

I want to begin this refugee series with a post from the summer of 2014. This is Muhammad, who I first met last year in...

Posted by Humans of New York on Saturday, September 26, 2015


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