melissa fleming

melissa fleming

[geneva, switzerland]


intro’d to Melissa here:

TEDxThessaloniki · Filmed May 2015

A boat carrying 500 refugees sunk at sea. The story of two survivors

why is there no massive resettlement program

why is so little being done to stop the wars/persecution/poverty..

something fundamental here – about our common humanity.. no person fleeing war/persecution should have to die crossing a sea to reach safety

could we be inspired.. and take a stand for a world in which every life matters…

find/follow Melissa:

link twitter

Chief Communications & Spokesperson at UNHCR – . Tweets highlight the stories of human suffering and resilience I witness every day.


syrian refugees

refugee camps

a means to go deep enough for all of us.. leapfrog to a nother way


Refugees need protection not rejection.
UNHCR’s position:

Original Tweet:


Extract of my book with photos: via @MailOnline

Original Tweet:


via Brandon:

“For the last eight years I’ve been the head of communications for the UN Refugee Agency. My job is to make people care about the sixty million displaced people in the world. I wish I could tell every single one of their stories. Because if people knew their stories, I don’t think there would be so many walls. And there wouldn’t be so many people drowning in the seas. But I don’t think I anticipated how difficult it would be to make people care. It’s not that people are selfish. I just think that people have a hard time caring when they feel insecure. When the world is unstable, people feel vulnerable. And vulnerable people focus on protecting what they have. They focus on their own families. They focus on their own communities. It can be very hard to welcome strangers when you’re made to feel threatened. Even if those strangers are more vulnerable than you.”


This is my friend Melissa Fleming, who I think it one of the most important people in the world, and who was so instrumental in helping organize the HONY refugee series. Tomorrow at 7pm we will be in conversation at the Union Square Barnes and Noble, to celebrate the launch of her new book: A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea, which tells the powerful story of a young woman who survived a shipwreck while fleeing the war in Syria. If you can’t make the signing, you can get the book here:


a hope more powerful – notes/quotes:


the entire family – aunts/uncles/cousins – ate communal meals in the courtyard.. the love/conflicts/joys/sorrows of living with a large clan affected every part of doaa’s daily life..



one mean’s desperate act of protest had ignited flames of revolt across the middle east  (tunisia, egypt, libya, yemen).. the arab spring was born, stirring hope in the discontented, esp the youth, and fear in those who ruled them..

boys in syria graffiti.. – 15 boys to detention center.. doaa’s family knew some of them..  no one was sure which of those rounded up, if any, had actually sprayed the graffiti. som.. were pressed to confess or implicate  friends.. others.. were interrogated because their names had been scribbled on the walls long before the graffiti was painted.. no one could believe these kids had been arrested for such a minor act..


protestors to this.. doaa -watched..  the energy and promise of the demonstration exhilarated her.. she had been told that people of syria would never defy govt and that she had so accept things as they were..

then.. police began to fire at protesters.. her excitement turned to horror

later that day.. 4 protestors killed.. first fatalities in a war that would go on to kill over 250 000 and force half the country from their homes – 5 mill

the boy that started the war


boys returned… to a crowd of thousands of cheering demonstrators.. bu t excitement soon turned to horror as it became clear that some of them, some as young as twelve, had been tortured. backs revealed gaping wounds left by electric cables that guards had used as whips.. boys had cigarette burns on faces.. some had fingernails missing.. word of the boys’ condition fueled even great anger.


she realized that everything she’d grown up believing about her country was wrong.. t


the shy girl who had once feared change now felt driven to be a part of a revolution


she did not want to leave. she’d promised herself that she would never abandon the revolution and had begged her father to let her stay behind. ‘leaving syria would be like taking my soul away from me’ she told him, her voice trembling…


nov 2012 – year and 8 months after violence first began.. death toll estimate.. over 49 000.. impossible to know how many disappeared or were behind bars in govt prison.. by fifth year.. over 250 000 killed and over 1 mn injured.. 5 mn forced to flee across borders.. 6.5 mn internally displaced… by 2016.. syrians largest displace population in the world..


it felt as if every part of the journey were about waiting..t

on hold ness


first attempt to get to europe (doaa and bassem) ended w.. loss of 2500 and 9 days in prison..


then doaa: better to have quick death in sea than slow death in egypt


so tried again.. prison again.. 10 days


fake life jackets for 50


500 on board.. 2500 each – 1 mill to smugglers for this trip.. even more if charged for the children.. there were 100 on this trip


4-5 diff boats.. then pirates.. to take the boat down


as boat sinks.. people/children pulled into propeller blades


initially 100 survived shipwreck (those dying were pulling others under)..  by next morning.. at least half gone..


she had lost the most precious person in her life and she wanted to die with him. she imagine letting herself slip thru the inflatable ring and into the sea w bassem. but then she felt malak’s tiny arms around her neck and realized that she alone was responsible for this child. doaa knew that she had to try to keep her alive


2 days later.. only 25 survive.. doaa.. helping other puke to get rid of sea salt..


at least they are safe now and i don’t have to fight for them anymore. now i can join bassem. on her own for the first time in days and filled w a sense of relief that she had fulfilled her duty.. doaa drew her knees up to push away from the boat. i want to go back to bassem and die with him. doaa wasn’t sure if she had said it out loud or not


she thought, i can never hat the sea again because bassem is a part of it now.. she recalled some of his last words: if i die, all i want is for you to be happy


she knew of only 6 survivors including herself in greece and 5 others that were taken to malta (of 500)


it would take almost a year for unhcr and the swedish embassy in athens to confirm that mohammad was related to masa.. to finalize reunification.. during that time.. masa cared for in an orphanage..t


doaa’s mother’s life threatened..’ tell doaa to shut her mouth and top naming names. we know where you live’


she felt different.. she knew they could never understand what she had been thru.. she couldn’t find the words to express the horror of the deaths and suffering she had witnessed or the depth of her own grief..


melissa: doaa felt that only she could change her family’s destiny. by that point, she had clearly lost trust in govts to help her and faith that the culprits who had sunk the boat would be found and brought to justice…. doaa: i have heard so many promises.. but i want to see action..


finally.. oct 2015 – melissa receives call that the swedish govt had accepted her and her family’s resettlement apps.. jan 18 2016.. boarded plane… to stockholm..


after 1.5 years.. doaa finally felt warm embrace of her mother..

what choices are left.. to remain refugees in egypt w little opp for ed /work.. to return to war zone…. to take risk at sea on so called boat of death.. for better opps in europe..?.. most refugees have nothing to return home to.. t

since 2011 – half syrian population.. almost 5 mn people.. forced to flee.. another 6.5 mn internally displaced..  t

since march 2011.. at least a quarter of a mn syrians hae been killed in fighting..  (some estimates double that number) and over one million have been injured..


estimated 13.5 mn, including 6 mn children.. are in need of humanitarian assistance.. t

lebanon – 25% of population are now refugees.. not enough schools, water systems, sanitation facilities.. shelters to support swelling population..


doaa’s story is the story of millions..t

who live in limbo waiting for asylum and watching the news of the fighting back home..  it’s also the story of international powers becoming entangled in regional rivalries and how they are either unable or unwilling to stop the war..


doaa’s fam doing better… but why did this have to happen.. what if none of them had had to take that risk?

why is so little being done to stop the wars, persecution, and poverty that drive so many people to flee for the shores of europe..t

the refugees would not risk their lives on such a dangerous journey if they could thrive where they were..

no person fleeing conflict or persecution should have to die trying to reach safety..


Melissa Fleming (@melissarfleming) tweeted at 6:56 AM – 12 Sep 2017 :

3,500,000 refugee children spent 0 days in school in 2016.
Morally wrong & strategically dumb. They are our future (

perhaps opp to get away from.. schooling the world ness..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


Melissa Fleming (@melissarfleming) tweeted at 6:09 AM on Wed, Sep 20, 2017:
My interview with @LATIMES :

One of the things I always ask refugees is, “What did you take with you when the bombs were falling on your house, or the tanks were rolling into your neighborhood?”

There was one story that I can’t get out of my mind of a young Syrian teenager, who just graduated from high school in the city of Homs. I was speaking to him in his tent in Lebanon and asked him, “What did you take?” And then he got up and went to the other side of the tent and came back with this silk-covered package that he unraveled, and then presented me with his high school diploma.

He said, “I took my *high school diploma because my life depended on it. Without education I am nothing.”

What refugees tell me is also that the worst thing about the refugee experience is **losing control of your life, that you no longer are the director of your life.

thinking a *piece of paper.. Education (schooling the world ness) .. defines you.. is where we’re **losing control of our life ..

paper as in diploma.. passport.. et al.. we’re killing ourselves (genocide.. suicide..) by perpetuating bureaucracy

nationality: human.. as enough

we need to train less.. listen more.. ie: hlb via 2 convos


Melissa Fleming (@melissarfleming) tweeted at 0:23 AM on Sun, Oct 01, 2017:
“Studying with top universities makes you feel part of something bigger — not just a number in a refugee camp.”:

is is same fractal.. as jihad ness.. lacking belonging via schooling the world ness
we have to go deeper.. ie: maté basic needs


Kelly T. Clements (@KellyTClements) tweeted at 7:14 AM – 25 Jan 2018 :

I’m in Davos with @melissarfleming seeing a community that not only wants to help refugees for social good, but because it’s in their economic interests

FB Live at #wef18: <%22>

#sharedfuture #withrefugees
@maryesnapp @gatesfoundation @UPS_Foundation (



kakuma camp

The Stream (@AJStream) tweeted at 6:00 AM – 7 Jun 2018 :
#TedxKakumaCamp speakers will touch on everything from women’s rights to refugees in sports. What do you think will be the biggest takeaway from the first Ted Talk hosted in a refugee camp? (

from 2 min intro video – can’t find a direct link

melissa: most europeans, americans, australians think that all the refugees are coming their way.. frankly.. most of them are in countries like kenya.. 85%.. and yet they’re invisible..t


Broad agreement reached on the final draft of the Global Compact on Refugees! Could be game-changing in how the world responds &amp; shares responsibility.

Original Tweet: