THE BLOG
01/21/2016 02:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Our Refugee Camps Are Not Tourist Attractions

Courtesy of Manar Bilal

It's true. There are tourist trips to the refugee camps, where privileged foreigners encroach on the grounds to obtain their official right to brag.

"Oh, yes we went to Zaatari camp and saw the refugees," says the privileged foreign audience, to uplift their own credibility. They snap a picture with the "pretty-blue-eyed" child to showcase to those around them their understanding of the pain and struggle of those forced out of their homes.

Every time the tourists in the refugee camp are confronted, they claim, "we are here to understand the situation." As if a few hours touring the camp, taking pictures with a few of the children, and leaving is how one will come to understand the situation.

2016-01-21-1453402636-4498265-unnamed1.jpg
Photo credit: Manar Bilal

When tourists snap pictures, photography turns into a tool that dehumanizes people into products. Cameras fill the Syrian refugee camps at the borders, as people enter and exit, taking with them a souvenir.

Videos, short films, documentaries are all tools used by these individuals to profit off of the existence of Syrian refugees. They enter the refugee camps with entitlement, asking people to pose for their self-profiting creations, without even understanding the situation of the individual. All claiming that they "are raising awareness," when they know nothing about the situation themselves.

Enter the camps when you have a purpose and are able to provide something.

Pictures and videos are used to romanticize the situation for the tourists' own hype and well-being. A photograph of a girl watering a plant is taken, the caption reading "the child remains resilient," without mention that a rocket had killed her family, that she has no school to attend, that she is hungry, and she was forced out of her home.

2016-01-21-1453402826-294495-unnamed2.jpg
Photo credit: Manar Bilal

This is because they do not know the people they photograph, they only take the photograph, film the video, to upgrade their own portfolio.

Enter the camps when you have a purpose and are able to provide something. As a Syrian photographer and videographer, I lived in the camps, its dwellers are my family. I documented the memories of our broken homeland and deteriorating reality.

Don't capitalize off of the suffering of others, utilizing them for your own benefit.

Don't be a tourist in refugee camps, a place of broken dreams is not a place for your tourism.

2016-01-21-1453402855-6088157-unnamed3.jpg
Photo credit: Manar Bilal