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28th Nov, 2021

LOOK: Courageous Rugby journalist exhibits rare photos of perilous refugee ‘death boat’ journey

A COURAGEOUS Rugby-based journalist has shared the rare photos she took when travelling with Syrian refugees on a perilous ‘death boat’ journey from Turkey to Greece.

An exhibition of photographs taken by award-winning Turkish photographer and journalist Guliz Vural have gone on show for the first time in the UK at Coventry Cathedral, as part of this year’s RISING Global Peace Forum in the city.

Guliz, 41, who claims to be the only journalist to make the journey, moved to the UK from her native Turkey in June under the Ankara Agreement to escape the suppression of opposition media by the Turkish authorities. Her husband, also a journalist, and their teenage daughter settled in Rugby.

Titled Journey with Death Boat, the series of images were taken when she decided to join around 45 refugees who were piled onboard the 12-person inflatable dinghy as it made its way from Sivrice Bay in Turkey to the island of Lesbos in 2015.

Each of the migrants had paid over £2,000 for the passage – and when the boat landed in Lesbos, Guliz was initially detained for five days suspected of being one of the traffickers.

Guliz, who was working for Nokta magazine in Turkey at the time of the crossing, said: “While all the journalists were looking at them from the shore, I thought I had to take part in these journeys myself. In order to describe them with photographs, it was necessary to be among them and to be one of them.

“I got on that boat because I am passionate about photography. But as a refugee, I could never get on that boat with my family.

“On that journey, which lasted a little more than an hour, I saw how brave people can be against death when they have nothing left to lose. They showed me how priceless some values are in life, such as peace and freedom. For them it was something to be paid for with death, if necessary.

“They were constantly praying on the boat, they had nothing with them but their faith. This feeling of desperation left a lasting impression on me.

“The fear of a journey into the unknown, which is likely to end in death, was on the faces of people, especially women and children. I tried to reflect this in my photos, and when the shores of Lesbos began to appear, the happiness of the children in particular was indescribable.”

She lamented the fact that refugees continue to make such journeys to this day, often at the cost of their lives.

She said: “The Aegean and Mediterranean seas have been turned into huge cemeteries, and the dead bodies of children and adults continue to wash up on the shores, while countries do not move a finger to stop these crossings and only act in line with their own interests.

“It is very meaningful to describe the journey of people fleeing war at the potential cost of their life, with my photographs, in an exhibition as part of the RISING Global Peace Forum which highlights the importance of peace.”

Guliz also spoke about her experiences on the opening day of the forum, which opened today (Wednesday November 10) and ends on Friday (November 12). Visit www.rising.org for more information.

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