Doruk Seymen © Copyright 2006 - 2021 / All Rights Reserved

Since the start of the armed con ict in Syria, nearly 4,7 million people have left their country to settle primarily in neighboring Turkey and in particular in bordering regions such as Gaziantep.

The support given by the local and national Turkish authorities takes place mainly in refugee camps to which only a limited number of persons have access.

Although Syrian refugees have been guaranteed access to health care and education since 2014, the fact remains that a large number of them still face severe obstacles in accessing housing, food or employment and are condemned to unhealthy living conditions and make-shift shelters.

The Dom and Abdal, related to Roma but from different ethnic group, are often victims of discrimination. This leads to an even more dire situation and a lack of access to basic services.

Lost rights, found justice? Refugee and Migrant Rights photo competition! Second prize winner

DOM People

DOMs, whose roots are in India, speak the Domari language. It is an ethnic community with links to European Roma and Loms in the Caucasus. DOMs live in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Palestine. Although most of them have to settle down, they still lead a nomadic life due to their economic activities.

They earn their living by professions such as forging, informal dentistry, seasonal agricultural work, basketry, fortune-telling, birding, and musicianship.

Doms were without identity for a long time. The reason for this was that they did not have a settled life. However, those who settled down acquired an identity. Doms transferred all their cultures in Kurdish. Dom women have been doing medicine and informal dentistry since ancient times, and they covered the teeth of many people in the region with gold or silver. In addition, all Doms are tattooed, except for the new generation Doms. The tattoo is an important symbol for the Doms.

In the photography work I carried out in Gaziantep in the past years, I contacted a group consisting of Abdal and Dom groups. The Dom community, who were marginalized even during their stay in Syria, had difficulties in the refugee camps after the war due to ethnic and religious reasons, or they were not accepted at all.

Although the Dom are a peri-patetic community, they have lived in the Middle East region for centuries with other peoples. Among the refugee density exceeding 4 million in post-war Turkey, 50,000 Syrian Doms constitute.

I photographed the ensemble, which stands out with their unique clothing styles, away from the classical refugee photographs, inspired by my fashion photography background, in the cultural clothes and living spaces of their own world. Thanks to the photographs taken, we were able to contribute to the needs and education of a small number of them. Rather than describing such a community, which has been marginalized within refugee groups, a little further from the painful picture, with photographs that will reinforce the suffering they have already experienced. I chose to photograph them with expressions that would not offend them and would not remind them of the process they went through.

The Forgotten Doms collection is a 77-piece work, including a photograph, which was placed second in the World at the Human Rights Consortium, University of London.