A fourteen year old Syrian boy dreams of rebuilding his war-torn hometown

My name is Mohammed Qutaish. I am 14 years old. When I grow up I hope to be an architect. I am building the Syria of tomorrow. I began building my model after I experienced my city being destroyed by air strikes and missiles. My sorrow, caused by this destruction, has inspired me immensely. Sometimes I feel very frightened. Sometimes I cannot think or work. Optimism gives me the power and determination to finish the works I have started. Every complex I design has a garden. I hope that one day these paper buildings will become real buildings.”

Qutaish was 10-years-old when protests first broke out against President, Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Too little to know what actually was going on, his first reaction to them was positive, but very soon there was crackdown on the protestors. As violence escalated, Qutaish and his family had to leave their home. After they were told that Aleppo was under the control of opposition forces, they returned, hoping to find peace restored. But they were in for a rude shock, as nothing was like they had left it four months ago.

As Aleppo lay in ruins, Qutaish had an intense urge to build his home as he remembered it. The more it was destroyed, the stronger his urge became and in time, with the help of his father, he started his reconstruction project. At first, it was only recreating some of his favourite buildings that had been destroyed, but soon he moved on from the fallen structures to imagining what the new city would hold. For three years, between 2012 and 2015, Qutaish worked on his vision of Aleppo.

The task was not easy as most of the things that are taken for granted were unavailable there. Take for instance something as simple as watercolour and glue was impossible to find, so his father got it arranged from Turkey. The rest of the building material was collected from the streets of the ruined city—wood, cardboard boxes and paper.

As word of his project got around, a part of it was transported from Aleppo to New York City where it remains today at a museum. He has now left Aleppo forever and is living in a small town in Turkey with his family and hopes to migrate to Europe or Canada someday, he dreams of becoming an architect.

 

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