Sleman is a seven year old Kurdish boy, stranded in a refugee camp in Greece. He lives in a converted shipping container with 15 other people, including his family.
This video of young Sleman singing a traditional Kurdish folk song has gone viral. Even if you do not speak the language, you will know why his voice has connected with so many people around the world.
The video was posted by Mozhdeh Ghasemiyani, a psychologist who specializes in trauma. She is in Lesbos, Greece to document the plight of refugees. It was there where she met Sleman. She writes:*
A Kurdish family overwhelmed Michael Graversen and I with their hospitality and warmth in the middle of a refugee camp filled with hopelessness and ugly.
Sleman with the beautiful voice, which goes directly into the heart, is 7 years and has lived in the camp with his family for three months. They share a container with 15 others. His Father tells me that Sleman has lost his mother during the war. Sleman doesn’t sleep at night and pees in bed.
Slemans’s great wish is to go to school and get away from camp.
The UN Refugee Agency says that some 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers are stranded on Greek islands where they are “crammed into government-run facilities…double the design capacity.” The UN Refugee Agency further describes these camps as “garbage strewn” and “dotted with home-made shelters, which are little proof against winter rains and falling temperatures.”
Government restrictions are preventing children like Sleman and his family from leaving these islands to safer and more appropriate accommodations on the Greek mainland, so Ghasemiyani has embarked on a tour of these camps to document the conditions of stranded refugees.
Ghasemiyani has a reference point here. She is a Kurdish refugee to Denmark who fled Saddam Hussein’s campaign of genocide against the Kurds. In a recent TED Talk, she described how her experience as a child refugee and her training as a psychologist is compelling her to confront the current refugee crisis. She also appeared on the Global Dispatches podcast to discuss her refugee experience and current work.
“My mission is to make people aware of the psychological consequences of the living conditions in refugee camps for refugee children,” she says. “It is also a very personal mission to make sure that refugee children feel that the are not forgotten. I want to make sure that the world hears their voices. Something I really wished someone would have done for me when I was a refugee child. ”
After Greece, she will visiting refugee camps in Iraq, which will be the first time she has returned to the country since fleeing over 20 years ago.