Nearly every day for the past few months, newspapers and television broadcasts have been full of headlines about the current refugee crisis. Tens of thousands of people are being displaced from their homes and seeking better lives across borders and seas. While plenty of journalists have been covering this, few refugees have been given the opportunity to tell their own stories.
Last month a Danish newspaper, Dagbladet Information, changed this perspective.
Dagbladet Information began as an illegal publication during World War II that published articles pertaining to resistance movements. Its history as a left wing media outlet was one of the contributing factors to this special issue. It has, in the past, gone against the mainstream, and told difficult stories that many are too afraid to publish. Its unique voice and perspective is what makes it so innovative.
Telling Real Stories
The October 9 edition of Dagbladet Information was filled with stories penned by 12 refugees from Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Thailand, and Iraqi Kurdistan. They told their own stories with their own voices, without any filters. All of their stories were translated into Danish for print, and extra copies were also printed for distribution to help ensure that readers were aware of them.
Each of the refugees that contributed had worked as a journalist in their home country. Many faced persecution for their work and were forced to flee. Their stories were about their hardships at home, their harsh journeys into Denmark, experiences in refugee camps, misconceptions about the refugee crisis, and the struggles they faced while attempting to settle into a new country and create new lives for themselves. These stories took the form of traditional news articles, essays, poetry, and photographs.
The newspaper’s publication of these personal stories mirrors the sentiment of Denmark’s general public towards refugees as one of acceptance. While the Danish government has tightened regulations, Danish citizens have “funded two sets of counter ads in U.K., German, and Lebanese papers welcoming refugees and apologizing for their government’s hostility.” Denmark’s government may not want to accept any more refugees, but the Danish people believe they can, and should.
The editors of Dagbladet Information felt that stories needed to be told by those who experienced the journey, and knew firsthand what the struggles of living in a new country were like. The media can only tell so much.
“Words are very powerful, and not least the words presented by the media,” said Lotte Folke Kaarsholm, an editor with Dagbladet Information, in an interview with Mustafa Ismail, one of the Syrian refugees who contributed to the newspaper. “We started this project in order to give the floor (in Danish we say “give the word”) to an important group of people in our country who are talked about a lot but who rarely get to set the agenda or start the conversation.”
During this interview between the journalists, Ismail shared part of his story:
“I arrived in Denmark a year ago. I was so worried and depressed. At the time, ISIS had occupied and subjugated my hometown, Kobane. Everything there had been destroyed. All property belonging to me as well as my parents had been demolished.”
The entire interview can be read online here.
You can follow Dagbladet Information on Facebook and Twitter, where they have more information and photos of the contributors (in Danish). You can also watch a video of the contributing journalists here.