Amnesty International sets up replica of Syrian home with TV screens showing bombings to highlight plight of refugees

Argentina has vowed to take 3,000 refugees from Syria this year 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
@AndrewBuncombe
Wednesday 21 September 2016 16:43
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Syrian room simulator at Argentinian exhibition

The explosions are relentless, the sense of danger palpable. And that is from a distance of almost 8,000 miles away.

This week, commuters in Buenos Aires had the chance to have a brief, if imperfect insight into life on the front lines of Syria’s deadly civil war. Campaigners who want Argentina to implement a plan to welcome refugees from the war, set up a replica of a Syrian home in a busy subway stop and invited people to take a look. Images of bombings were projected on screens on its windows.

A banner outside the installation along the corridors of the Carlos Pellegrini subway station, read: “To understand what is happening in Syria, nothing better than being there for a minute.”

Nairouz Baloul went to Argentina from Syria and hopes her family members can join her

“We have simulated a living room, which could be any house in Syria and through the windows, we simulated using television screens, the reality seen from a house in Syria,” said Amnesty International Argentina Director, Lea Tandeter. “You can see bombings, destruction and the consequences of these years of sustained civil war afflicting the country.”

The Associated Press said also present was Nairouz Baloul, who fled Syria and found sanctuary in Argentina. She hopes the government of President Mauricio Macri will welcome others like her.

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“If he has the key to unlock this, I think he shouldn't hesitate to open the door to other human beings,” Ms Baloul, 29, an English teacher who escaped what she calls a “living nightmare”, told the news agency.

One of her brothers was killed by a bomb in Damascus in 2014. She preferred not to speak about it but since she arrived in Buenos Aires last month with another brother, she has become hopeful that the rest of their family will be able to join them.

“I feel safe now, but I’m not totally happy because I want others to be safe as well,” she said.

Mr Macri has said he wants to allow more than 3,000 Syrian refugees into Argentina. But the plan has stalled, and organisations and members of Argentina’s Syrian community are pressuring the administration to keep its promise.

The house is an attempt to give people an insight into life on the Syrian front lines

“I think the Argentine state has the good intention to help in this humanitarian crisis, but it is limited (by resources). But for us, the economic excuse is not valid,” said Ms Tandeter.

Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said on Monday that the government was fully committed to bringing in 3,000 Syrians, though a timeline has not been set.

“This will not happen from one day to the next,” she said. “But we have a commitment because Argentina is a country of immigrants, of refugees, and it's unlikely that any of us doesn't have a grandfather, a great-grandfather who hasn’t escaped a war, a famine.”

Anywhere up to 500,000 people have been killed in Syria civil war, that has not entered its sixth year. More than 10m people have been displaced, either internally or else forced to flee their country.

In the US, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a suspension of Muslims entering the country. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama told the UN that 50 countries had agreed to take 360,000 refugees from countries affected by conflict this year.

There are currently over 60 million people worldwide who have been displaced from their homes.

A thirty-six-year-old businessman, Julio Cesar Montenegro, said he could not imagine living in Syria at a time like this.

“You don't even think about it. You see it only on the news. To see it from an angle as though you were in the place is something that gets to you,” he said.

“It gets to you because, if you have children, just imagine to be in a place like that. It makes you feel bad.”

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