From the Ship

Khaled Kaiyali: The Refugee Experience

Jul 25, 2023

Khaled Kaiyali, human rights defender and humanitarian worker from Syria, joined Peace Boat’s 114th Global Voyage as a guest educator from Piraeus, Greece to Le Havre, France. Khaled is a Community Manager at the German Red Cross and the founder of Access International e.V..  

In his first lecture, ‘From the Frontlines: Understanding the Root Causes of the Syrian Crisis’, Khaled delved into the complex internal factors that have contributed to the prolonged conflict.  Born and raised in Syria, Khaled shared his personal background and perspective on the root causes of the Syrian crisis that followed the revolution in Syria in 2011, when he himself became politically active, working to support those in need through various humanitarian initiatives. He highlighted the political and economic reasons behind the crisis, providing valuable insights into the underlying dynamics. By contextualizing the Syrian crisis within the larger framework of the Arab Spring, Khaled shed light on the regional implications and emphasized the need for a comprehensive understanding of the conflict. He recounted stories and examples to the audience that he had witnessed himselfor learned from others who experienced them firsthand. Participants onboard showed great interest, reflecting the significance of comprehending the multifaceted origins of the Syrian crisis.

Drawing from his personal journey, Khaled's second lecture on his own experiences in reaching Germany offered a poignant and firsthand account of the challenges faced by refugees. In 2015, his first destination as a refugee was Greece. He told participants that as he checked his cabin on board, he found a life jacket. It was identical to one he had used to arrive to Greece from Turkey on an inflatable boat along with over 45 other people. There were some boats with more than 50 people, even though they were designed for 20-25 individuals. He spoke not only about the physical journey but also described the obstacles encountered on his path to seeking refuge, providing a human perspective that resonated deeply with the audience. In Germany, Khaled obtained a Joint Masters in International Humanitarian Action from RUB University, Bochum and a diploma in Refugeesand Social Work from the German Jordanian University in Amman. As well as his own experiences, Khaled spoke about the wider experiences of refugees through his work providing support and counseling as well as organizing events promoting integration for the refugee community. He spoke about both the successes and challenges and his lecture served as a powerful reminder of the urgent need to support and embrace individuals fleeing conflict and persecution.


The screening of the documentary "For Sama" provided Khaled with an opportunity to teach the audience about the current situation in Syria. Using a map, he visually demonstrated the locations and events depicted in the film, enabling the audience to gain a deeper understanding of the context and the magnitude of the crisis. As a witness to the revolution, Khaled's firsthand accounts of the brutality inflicted by the Assad regime brought a sense of urgency and emotional connection to the lecture. This lecture not only educated the audience about the Syrian conflict but also instilled a sense of empathy and a call to action.

Drawing on his personal experiences, academic knowledge, and passion for advocacy Khaled’s lectures served to raise awareness and deepen understanding of the Syrian crisis, human rights issues, and the challenges faced by refugees.