#OmanPride: Omani woman helping Syrian refugees arriving in Greece
March 7, 2016 | 10:28 PM
by Tariq Ziad Al Haremi / [email protected]

Muscat: Oman is well known for its humanitarian values, hospitable culture, rushing to help victims of horrific traffic accidents and providing for the war-displaced seeking a safe haven.

One such Omani, who is featured in today’s #OmanPride, is Dalal Mohammad Darwish, who since December 2015, has volunteered to help Syrian refugees upon their arrival on the shores of Greece, as well as acted as an associate producer for an upcoming documentary film called Citizen Xenos.

Darwish, a U.K. born Omani is the first Omani to volunteer in the refugee crisis that has hit Greece.

“I moved to Greece in December 2015, with the initial aim to volunteer helping the refugees of war arriving on the shores. For a long time, a Greek friend of mine, Valia Charalampidou had encouraged me to do so. She embarked on a mission to document stories from the ground and I was immediately part of the team,” said Darwish.

She added, “My views on injustice and my passion for humanity and equality motivated me to become a part of this independent production.”

Darwish said there isn’t enough global awareness about the intricate level of human struggle during the crisis and the film could help raise awareness. The team also took it upon themselves to use their personal resources and finances to document untold stories that the media does not portray about the refugees on a human level.

“I found out that the crisis involves more than crowds of refugees lining up for food, sleeping on the streets, the number of arrivals, number of deaths and number of those missing. Refugees have not been portrayed as humans with a beautiful culture and a rich history,” she said.

Speaking about her experience Darwish said, “Being a volunteer helping refugees during this historic event has honestly been tough. I learnt immediately that my sensitive heart needed training to be strong in order to be a pillar for those that are vulnerable and relying on me for help.”

“I experienced many moments of feeling helpless as I thought no matter how much I do, it is minimal in the face of the larger impact of this crisis on humanity.”

Oman has always set an example for humanitarian values, both locally and globally. An example of this is when Cyclone Gonu hit the Sultanate in 2007 and local residents took it upon themselves to help those affected; by accepting Yemeni refugees amid the ongoing war.

When asked about what Darwish had gained considering Oman’s humanitarian values, she said, “Confirmation. Confirmation that our humanitarian values are strong and stand true to us all; we are united in our values to help others; it is in our blood and our culture.”

“I am proud to say that we Omanis accept our diversity and may Allah give him long life, we are blessed with a great example, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who demonstrates humanitarian values on a local and global level,” she added.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, the world has seen the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

According to the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 9 million people have fled their homes since the war started, while 6.5 million have been internally displaced. Some of those who fled tried to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, while others fled to European countries, such as Germany, France and Greece.

However, many Europeans have not accepted Syrian refugees entering their countries, judging them by their ethnicity and religion.

The film is produced by Valia Charalampidou and directed by Lucas Oldwine.

Citizen Xenos, which is Greek for “stranger,” is an independent documentary shot more as a film than a traditional style documentary, which is scheduled to be out in the summer of 2016. The team is aiming to screen it in Oman in September 2016.

Usually, films of this calibre cost thousands of rials to make, but the team is trying to spend as little as possible and has an OMR6,500 budget to make the film.

“The film puts a human face on thousands of people with the aim to fight the apprehension that many Europeans feel towards them. The European refugee crisis is a historic phenomenon, with many dimensions and a solution that is difficult to find,” explained Darwish.

“The film doesn’t examine the causes nor does it take a position. We focus on the people, this is our call,” she added.

Readers can make donations for the film’s production through Paypal at [email protected] or Sponsors and supporters will receive film credit, unless they wish to stay anonymous.

“If donations exceed this amount we will directly channel the remaining funds to the refugees we meet along the way. We have already done that in many cases. It is impossible not to help when someone is in need, unless one is entirely apathetic,” Darwish said.

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