To shed light on the refugee crisis and the harrowing journey refugees are forced to make on a daily basis, Amnesty International asked five people from the Netherlands and Belgium to go under hypnosis and live one of those dangerous journeys.
The five-and-a-half-minute film, called ‘Through the eyes of a refugee,’ follows the five people who were brought into a state of hypnosis so they could gain deeper insight into the journey of a Syrian refugee. Under the guidance of a professional hypnotherapist, the participants experienced the journey of 29-year-old Marwa, from Syria, as she made her way to safety to the Netherlands.
As the people are put under, the hypnotherapist describes in detail the chaos of war, the destruction of Marwa’s family, her freezing trip on a sinking boat, the deplorable conditions of the refugee camp, and finally, the help she received in applying to come safely to the Netherlands.
The people in the film clearly believe that they are living the journey. When they come to, they are introduced to Marwa. All feel her plight and her struggle and give her hugs of assurance and empathy. The film is tagged with, “Refugees are nowhere without your understanding.”
Eduard Nazarski, executive director of Amnesty International Netherlands, said: “For most people, the hardship inflicted on refugees on their way to safety is hard to imagine. When people really experience what it is like to be forced to flee, this can create understanding and could fundamentally change the way we speak about refugees.”
In April 2015, a missile struck Marwa’s house, killing her brother and sister. Marwa’s village was bombed for months on end and, after another brother fled, Marwa embarked on a hellish journey, with the hope of finding safety in Europe.
For Marwa, it was important to share her story: “The war is not over and it is only getting worse. If people hear my story it may touch them, so they may be able to help refugees. You have to treat refugees as equal human beings.”
One of the participants, Hetty, described the experience as life-changing: “I’m glad I did this, because now I have a better understanding of what these people go through. When you see this on television, it doesn’t affect you as much.”
The film was done as a collaboration between Amnesty International and TBWA\Neboko.
Darre van Dijk, chief creative officer for the agency, said: "For those who have never experienced the pain and horror of fleeing a dangerous, war torn country, it is difficult to identify with the refugees who have had to endure these awful circumstances. By taking this different approach in the way we tell refugees' stories, we are able to feel the tension and pain on a deeper level, ultimately increasing awareness and a better understanding of their situation."
More than 65 million people worldwide have fled from violence, and Amnesty International is calling on political leaders to protect refugees.
“By building fences and signing shameful deals with other countries to keep refugees away, politicians have revealed their true priority,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International. “From Australia and the USA to countries across Europe, borders have been shut down to those in desperate need of safety and protection. Governments have not only closed borders; they have also closed their hearts – in contrast to many ordinary people. It is time for governments to face up to the task and offer safe and legal routes for people fleeing war and persecution to find safety.”
A behind-the-scenes video digs into the responses of the people who went through the hypnosis journey, which can be seen by clicking the Creative Works box below.