Refugee Week photography exhibition honours the spirit of survival, of community and of Scotland

A Refugee Week Scotland photography exhibition which pays tribute to refugees who lost their lives fleeing danger, opens to the public today at Trongate 103 in Glasgow (Friday, 8 June).

The Spirit Exhibition, co-ordinated by Scottish Refugee Council in partnership with Street Level Photo Works, includes moving images by six photographers from a refugee background.

Inspired by the Refugee Week theme, ‘Spirit’, the photographs were taken during a three month project supported by Street Level.

Difficult journeys

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the ‘Freedom Ship’ image, which symbolises the difficult journeys refugees fleeing persecution, torture, war and violence are forced to make.

Featuring several of the participants of the project, the image also shows a piper symbolising the welcome Scotland extends to refugees.

The idea came from Spirit participant, Karima Hussaini, a refugee from Afghanistan. She said: “A lot of people from countries all over the world are forced to make extremely difficult journeys while trying to reach safety.

“I remember watching a news item about people who didn’t make it – their small boat sunk and they lost their lives. It’s so painful and sad to think of that. I can relate – my own journey was difficult but now I’m safe in Scotland and I have a new life here.”

Powerful images

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This exhibition is full of moving photographs that remind us of the spirit shown by refugees and the welcome that they receive in Scottish communities.

“Powerful images like these inspire Scottish Refugee Council to continue all the work we do in helping refugees rebuild their lives in Scotland.

“We hope that people feel proud to be part of a Scotland that is able to offer sanctuary to those most in need of protection.“

The Spirit Exhibition runs in the foyer of Trongate 103 from June 8 – July 22, 2012. 

Watch our Spirit film featuring images and interviews by the participants:

For more information, high res images, or interviews, contact Media Officers Wendy Niblock or Karin Goodwin on 0141 223 7927/07850 930 418 or email

Notes to editors:

  1. It is estimated that there are around 10,000 refugees living in Scotland mostly concentrated around Glasgow. They come from countries as diverse as Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, China and Sri Lanka fleeing war, persecution and torture.
  2. Over the course of three months, the Spirit Photography participants worked with Street Level  Photoworks – who had been commissioned to deliver the Spirit project by Scottish Refugee Council - to create an exhibition for Refugee Week Scotland, which this year takes ‘Spirit’ as its theme. They spent time photographing refugees and their communities across Glasgow and in the studio.
  3. The exhibition aims to celebrate refugees in Scotland.  The work is displayed in three categories that follow the International Refugee week theme: The Spirit of Survival; The Spirit of Community and The Spirit of Scotland.
  4. The public are invited to get involved by sharing images or short video clips that show their community spirit on the accompanying website –
  5. The Spirit photographers are: Amir Zamanpour, Gullalaii Yousaezai, Karima Hussani, Mehrab Firouzi, Rana Ali, Umaima Ahmed. Workshop delivery: Iseult Timmermans, Street Level  Photoworks. Project support: Becky Duncan, Scottish Refugee Council.
  6. Refugee Week Scotland: Refugee Week Scotland is co-ordinated by Scottish Refugee Council. This week long festival involves over 100 events arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary. Refugee Week Scotland 2012 runs from 18-24 June and is more far reaching than ever before with events from Orkney to the Borders. World Refugee Day takes place on Wednesday 20 June.
  7. Scottish Refugee Council: As an independent charity we provide essential information and advice to refugees and those seeking asylum. We also campaign for political change, raise awareness about issues that affect refugees, and work closely with local communities and organisations.  Please support our work to help refugees all year round. Simply text RWS012 with your donation amount to
  8. Street Level Photoworks: Street Level Photoworks is a registered charity that provides artists and the public with the opportunity to produce and participate in photography and lens-based media. It aims to make artistic production accessible, both physically and intellectually, to a wide audience. The education programme involves a range of collaborations in the community, with schools and with agencies working across areas of inclusion, social justice, and