A student initiative led by two University of Bath students on our MSc Humanitarianism, Conflict & Development programme hopes to recast the debate surrounding refugees and asylum seekers by offering a platform to highlight the life stories of individuals forced to flee their homes in search of safety.
‘Our World Too’, the brainchild of Hira Aftab and Maryam Khan, stems from their meeting on the course in Bath, class discussions about the common depiction and coverage of refugee-related issues, and a shared desire to change the narrative and advocate for individuals’ rights.
Set in a context where it can be easy to forget the individuals behind statistics, their site – https://ourworldtoo.org.uk/ – offers a space for refugees and displaced people to tell their stories, share their experiences, their hopes and dreams through a series of first-hand, short stories.
Hira and Maryam want these individual reflections to spark fresh conversations about refugees and our response to them, and to counterbalance some of the negative stereotypes and discrimination which often persist.
Hira, who studied on the Bath course remotely from Saudi Arabia and London, explained: “It’s often easy to ignore the voices of those who aren’t represented or are misrepresented by mainstream media. No one is born thinking they would have to flee their homeland to seek safety, but when they do instead of being afforded the international protection they are entitled to they are alienated by the media and politics. Refugees do not need us to save them, but they need to be treated with respect, honour and dignity throughout their journeys.”
Maryam, also a remote learner on the MSc course who is based in London, added: “Growing up in Pakistan on the brink of the Afghan war, I witnessed people fleeing by their thousands, seeking safety in Pakistan. I was fortunate enough to observe the shift in how Afghan refugees contributed to local communities. One thing they all had in common was a story to tell about their life, their home and their villages.
“The life they left behind, a degree they worked hard for which now was invalid and loved ones they were forced to separate from and are still seeking. It would be fair to say that one of the reasons for me to become a social worker and a humanitarian was the impact these narratives had on me, it helped me see people beyond labels, it taught me no matter where, what colour, race or religion people come from they are people just like me.”
The narratives on their website outline the stories of people like Nejwa who had to flee with her children while crossing multiple international borders in search of safety to Qazi Marzia Babakarkhail, a former Supreme Court Judge in Afghanistan who champions women’s rights but was forced to flee after being targeted by the Taliban. Qazi Marzia notes: