ANKARA -- “The living conditions aren’t easy at all” shares Aisha, 13 years old from Iraq, "but that’s not the hard part. The real hard part is feeling like a stranger, all the time".
IsraAID’s relief team has returned from a mission in Turkey, with open hearts and torn stomachs.
"After working for more than 18 months in Greece, we were under the impression that what the refugees really need is stability; a place in which they have the opportunity to integrate, permission to work, and a chance at building a sense of normality to their lives, despite the impossible history they carry. Turkey taught us a different reality" remarked Anat Seif, IsraAID Arabic speaking art therapist that has been based on the Northern Greek border for over 1 year.
Turkey is home to over 3,000,000 refugees, most of them from Syria. From the refugee camps next to the border one can hear the bombing and incessant noise and destruction of the conflict. Yet Turkey is a special case – refugees receive a humanitarian temporary status which allows them to access all services for free, including medical care, education and work. In addition, only 10% of the refugees live in camps. The rest need to find living solutions for themselves and their families on their own.
"Sometimes I ask myself how it could be that these people survive!” said Faris, the manager of a community center managed by a local Turkish organization, "it is all thanks to the humanitarian nature of the Turkish people. No country would have been able to cope with a flow of 3 million refugees coming in in such a short period. That is my only explanation. Living in the same neighborhood, people help each other out”.
Despite this, the situation in Turkey is increasingly desperate. Jobs are rare, and the pay abysmal, and thousands struggle to find enough income to pay for basic necessities – food, water, clothes, or even a roof over their heads, etc. In this harsh reality, refugees are becoming a second class of citizens. The case is even worse for those who cannot work. The only jobs available for refugees are grueling manual labor. Women, the elderly and the sick are excluded from the work market, only rendering the situation more desperate.
During its visit, together with local partners the IsraAID team distributed 'winterization' items to the most vulnerable families struggling with an especially cold winter.
Focusing on empowerment and education, IsraAID also established libraries for children and women in community centers throughout Ankara, and provided equipment for the launching of new computer classes specifically for women and girls. These centers will also help ease their fears over loved ones left behind in Syria by facilitating communication across the border. Through these efforts, IsraAID aims to reach over 6,000 women and their families on a monthly basis.
Looking forward, IsraAID is working with local partners to open a leadership program for young ladies. "I always wanted to be a nurse when I grow up. Back home I was going to school, improving my education. Here, my father is too afraid - he doesn’t allow me to go to school. Now I stay home all day, helping my mother with the house chores " shares 16 years old Amena. She been living in Ankara for 8 months now.
Countless women like Amena have had to put their lives and dreams on hold because of the war, and IsraAID is committed to giving them back the right to hope.
Since 2013, IsraAID has operated in 10 countries across Europe and the Middle East; responding to the needs of Syrians displaced by the terrible conflict raging at home, and has permanent missions in Iraq, Greece and Germany.
IsraAID emergency program in Turkey is supported by the Koret Foundation
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