Not Just a Number: The Real Face of Refugees in the United States

The Turkish Heritage Organization is excited to announce the launch of Not Just a Number, an ongoing video project documenting the real lives of refugees living is the US. After researching and covering the escalation of the Syrian crisis and the numerous summits surrounding humanitarian issues this year, THO felt that examining the refugee crisis on an individual level may bring a needed and often overlooked perspective, adding to the depth and breadth of our analysis. 

During her research, THO’s Coordinator Sarah Houston discovered how pervasive the anti-immigrant sentiment and misunderstanding seem to be in the media and throughout host communities. She wanted to challenge the perspective that many Americans have as they watch news clips and read headlines surrounding Syria, views that tend to place refugees in one of two categories: helpless victims without a place to go or intruders who threaten national security and local job markets. We wanted to highlight the triumphs and incredible stories of refugees here in the Washington, DC area who go above and beyond in order to confront this problematic stereotyping. The interviews already conducted show how refugees can take a devastating situation and turn it into a something beautiful, making a lasting impact on America.   

For the initial phase of this project, we sat down with three refugees who defy categorization. Elvir Klempic tells us of his journey from Bosnia at a young age and how he became a dedicated civil servant at 24 years old. Ahmad Hashemi speaks of how he fled Iran to work as a journalist in both Turkey and the US. And Lubana Al Quntar, Syria’s First Opera Singer, invited us into her life as a champion for the refugee cause, performing and in benefit concerts all over the country. 

When you take the time to sit down and talk with someone about their life, it is much harder to put them in a box. So, THO did just that: we sat down with refugees and listened. Each week, we will release a new interview in the hopes that Americans, Turks, and people all over will do the same. These people are so much more than just a number. 


For suggestions or ideas of other refugees we can interview, please e mail sarah@turkheritage.org

How can you help?

Give to TCA's $100,000 campaign to help Syrian children receive the support they so desperately need.



Donate now and all donations will be matched dollar for dollar by the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA). Funds will be allocated to fund specific project requests from humanitarian organizations such as One Refugee Child, Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi), Small Projects Istanbul, and Bütün Çocuklar Bizim Derneği who work directly with refugees on the ground in Turkey.

Lady Free Thinker, a nonprofit media organization that reports of issues of social justice and human rights, recently published an article interview with Sarah Houston about THO’s refugee project, Not Just a Number.

Middle East Collective Follows Not Just a Number. 

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Not just a Number: The Real Face of Refugees in the United States

12 Jul 16

The Turkish Heritage Organization is excited to announce the launch of Not Just a Number, an ongoing video project documenting the real lives of refugees living is the US. During her research, THO’s Coordinator Sarah Houston discovered how pervasive the anti-immigrant sentiment and misunderstanding seem to be in the media and throughout host communities.

From Bosnia to Capitol Hill Elvir Klempic

12 Jul 16

Elvir Klempic tells us of his journey from Bosnia at a young age and how he became a dedicated civil servant at 24 years old

Lubana Al Quntar, Syria’s First Opera Singer

31 Aug 16

Lubana Al Quntar, Syria’s First Opera Singer, invited THO into her life as a champion for the refugee cause, performing and in benefit concerts all over the country