A man holds a milk bottle

© Matt Percival/BRC

How can one image sum up four years of violence, fear and hardship?

A new artwork is using more than a thousand milk bottles to mark four years since the start of the conflict in Syria.

No One Home has been curated by Syrian artist Ibrahim Fakhri, who now lives in Oxford. He describes the impact of the crisis – and reveals how art can show people the reality of life for those affected.

Does news from Syria still upset me? It does – like when I see images of children fighting over soup made from boiled grass.

I cannot go back to Syria now, but of course I know many people who are still there. Two of my friends have been killed.

Millions of Syrians have had to flee their homes. People are sleeping in parks, living without electricity, without heating. They are freezing to death. And it feels like the rest of the world has forgotten them.

Syria is not the same country I grew up in. It’s chaotic, it’s falling apart. Last year, someone told me about a group of children were driven out of a city affected by the fighting to a safer area. They were given bread and water and just left there, by the side of the road, with no adults around. Someone decided that was the safest thing to do.

Life has been turned upside down, for everyone. I know someone who used to be a lawyer in Damascus. Now all he does every day is read books, smoke shisha and watch TV.

The power of art

It frustrates me when the media focuses on those fighting, rather than the ordinary people caught up in the violence. I hope the exhibition will help British people remember that lives just like theirs are still being torn apart every day.

Journalists have stopped covering Syria like they used to. And I’ve given up on politics. The only thing I can do is communicate with people like me – normal people, who actually care about what happens elsewhere. Take their focus away from the politics and agendas. And art is the only thing that everyone can understand.

If I could go back to Syria tomorrow, the first thing I would do is go to my father’s grave. He died a few months before the fighting began. Sometimes I wonder if his grave is still OK. I was told the neighbourhood where the cemetery is was bombarded.