Syrian IOM Staffer Scoops Prize at Smartphone Film Festival

Republic of Korea - While Syrian refugees are at the centre of media attention amidst the current migrant and refugee crisis in Europe, a film shot on a smartphone from Syria has won the Migrant Heroes Prize at the 5th Olleh International Smartphone Film Festival (OISFF), the biggest of its kind in the world, which IOM has been officially partnering this year.

Why Not, a smartphone film made by two IOM Syria staffers, Sawsan Dahi and Yamen Moualla, is about an internally displaced person (IDP) from Syria. Mohammad al-Aswad, a former small business owner in Aleppo was forced to flee his home after an attack in 2012, and moved to Tartous, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast with his family.

Although Mohammad lost everything due to the war, he worked hard and established a business in Tartous which expanded over several years into a successful enterprise, creating jobs for over 100 IDP families.

“Why Not is an example of a family coping with circumstances beyond their control and taking advantage of the generosity of a welcoming host community in Tartous,” said prize winner Sawsan Dahi, who joined IOM Syria in 2009 and has been working for IOM Tartous since 2013.

“By introducing a migrant hero who contributes to society, even after his life was totally uprooted by war, we wanted to show someone able to create something from nothing and be successful. He is not alone – there are many successful IDPs,” she added.

IOM Tartous is one of the four IOM sub-offices in Syria, in addition to the main office in Damascus. Since the onset of the crisis, it has reached out to displaced people seeking safety in the city.

Mohammad, the protagonist of Why Not, also was assisted by IOM Tartous at the end of 2013 with relief items including family hygiene kits, house cleaning kits and blankets, but has since become self-reliant and now helps others.

“Mohammad represents Syria’s civilian heroes building resilience rather than depending on humanitarian aid,” said Maria Rumman, Chief of Mission at IOM Syria. 

“The international community needs to support those civilian heroes – mothers, fathers and children – who overcame unthinkable adversity and managed to create prosperous new lives and enterprises, while working towards a peaceful resolution to the war in Syria,” she added.

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011, IOM has been actively providing core humanitarian relief items through its regional response in Syria and neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey. So far, IOM has assisted more than 3.6 million people in Syria.

The Migrant Heroes Prize was created through a collaboration of IOM and Korea Telecom (KT) Corporation, organizer of the Olleh Smartphone Film Festival and the largest communication service provider in the Republic of Korea, as part of the Migrant Heroes Campaign, a global IOM awareness raising campaign created in January 2015.

Some 57 films from 23 countries were submitted between July 1st and August 17th to compete for the Migrant Heroes Prize, according to IOM Seoul Head of Office Miah Park. 

The winner of the Migrant Heroes Prize will be screened in movie theatres, OllehTV and other media outlets in Korea throughout September and October. Some of the migrant stories will be also included in IOM’s new global social media campaign “I am a Migrant”. 

Watch: Why Not:  

Watch Why Not on OISFF's official website: 

Watch the other two finalists: 

A Liminal Space: 
Bombay Dream:

Watch other #MigrantHeroes Smartphone Film Competition submissions available online:

For more information, please contact Eunjin Jeong at IOM Seoul, Tel: +82 70 4820 2324, Email: