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Moustafa's story

Story by World Food Programme August 2nd, 2016

Written by: Jonathan Eng & Nuppu Ervasti, Photos: Jonathan Eng

Syria is the biggest and the most complex humanitarian crisis of our time, with the situation continuing to worsen. Through this series of portraits, the World Food Programme gives a voice to the ordinary people caught up in the conflict. Here is Moustafa’s’s story.


My name is Moustafa Jano, I was born in Aleppo in 1977. I have a wife and three children. I’ve never met my youngest – my wife was pregnant when I left. I’ve just seen him in photos and videos.

I studied in Damascus at the university and graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts. I’m a graphic designer. I started my own company in Aleppo and it was doing well.

“Bombs fell over our heads and the fighting was on my street.”

Then the war started in 2012 and the fighting got closer. We stayed for eight more months to see what would happen, but things got complicated and the fighting became intense. It was more and more like a war. My home was between the fighting lines. Bombs fell over our heads and the fighting was on my street, we couldn’t go out.

At that time I only had one kid. It was hard to find food and medicine; you couldn’t get any milk for your kids. In Syria we depend on the bread but it became really hard to get. Life was so difficult that we had to leave.

Photo: WFP/Jonathan Eng

I only brought two bags and my wife was carrying our son. We fled Syria for Northern Iraq, where I have a cousin. There are many organizations helping refugees there, and the World Food Programme is one of them. My family still receives food packages that contain rice, cooking oil and spaghetti.

I stayed in Northern Iraq for over three years and life was tough. There was no future for my children. I decided to go to Sweden where I wanted to find a job and then bring my family.

“We spend all our time in the asylum centre. I had to do something.”

The journey was really hard. When we crossed the Mediterranean Sea we almost died, but luckily a tourist boat saved us. I risked my life to give them a new life. But now I don’t see any future.

I came to Sweden ten months ago. People here are very nice and helpful, but we spend all our time in the asylum centre. I had to do something, I wanted to send a message. I started to make pictures of my journey, my experiences, and of the suffering.

“I used Pokémon in my art, and made a campaign.”

The world has become crazy about Pokémon Go. While people are hunting for Pokémon here, my friends and family are hunted in Syria. They get killed just because they are Syrians.

“I used Pokémon in my art, and made a campaign that spread around the world. People click like and share the photos, but we really need to make the international leaders stop the miserable war in Syria.

Photo: WFP/Abeer Etefa. Graphic: Moustafa Jano

I will try and if I can do something, I will: with words, paintings or graphic designs, I will never stop. I also made an exhibition about Syrian monuments.

Syria is not just about the war and the fighting. We have history and culture, we invented the first alphabet in the world. Have you heard of Steve Jobs? His father is from Syria.

“Nobody wants to leave their country, but there is a war.”

“There are areas where people can’t get enough food, they are starving. The international organizations are not allowed to help. This must be stopped.

“I am not talking about who should win the war, I am talking about humanity – about the people still living and suffering in Syria. There is this saying: east or west, home is best. Nobody wants to leave their country, but there is a war. We are humans, we have feelings and we have hopes.

Photo: WFP/Jonathan Eng

In the middle of the hurricane you can’t see what is happening but when it calms down you realise how much you have lost.

I lost my most precious things, my family, my city and my friends. I really hope I can bring my wife and children here. I don’t want to concentrate on all the difficulties. Right now I’m focusing on my photo exhibition that I will have in Stockholm.


You can show your solidarity and help bring attention to their stories by linking or sharing #IamSyrian stories on social media.