2014 Feature, Large Newsroom finalist

Refuge: 18 Stories of the Syrian Exodus


About the Project

To understand the Syrian refugee crisis, look into Dania Amroosh’s eyes.

See a 7-year-old’s innocence lost to the jagged scar on the bridge of her nose. The gash across her chin. The shrapnel scars all over her body. And when she lifts her little red Hello Kitty shirt, see the long wound on her belly, still weeping through an angry grid of stitches five months after a bomb dropped by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military tore her body and her life to shreds.

Then read Dania’s story, presented in “Refuge: Stories from the Syrian Exodus,” a Washington Post package of innovative digital journalism that smashed through the easy clichés of refugee life. The words and images were created by Washington Post correspondent Kevin Sullivan and photographer Linda Davidson, who spent several weeks traveling through Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to document one of the largest forced migrations since World War II.

Sullivan and Davidson met Dania in October, in a hospital in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Their work, in prose and pictures, distilled a complex and faraway catastrophe down to the eyes, faces, smiles and tears that make it human and real—something you can feel in your stomach.

Working in tense and chaotic environments, from overcrowded camps to junkyards and cemeteries, Sullivan and Davidson produced 18 powerful portraits. The stories are stunning: a former general contractor in Syria who now runs a sewing machine in Turkey; the creased face of a 105-year-old Syrian man, sitting in a wheelchair in a dirty refugee camp alley; a little boy with cancer, holding his baby brother who also suffers from the disease.

The work is most stunning in digital form, in a presentation that was the work of an accomplished team of visual journalists. With intimate video clips, motion graphics and high-definition mapping, these digital elements add poignancy and altitude, creating a powerful new prism through which to understand the year’s biggest and most urgent humanitarian crisis. This breakthrough reporting and photography revealed a story that desperately needs more of the world’s attention.