Rebuilding a life in refuge

The Syria conflict has affected the lives of the country’s population, sending more than 5.6 million people into refuge. Four Syrian refugees share their stories of refuge in Turkey.


Today, more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees call Turkey home. The following are four stories of refugees we are supporting through our European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) funded project.


Amina Web (1)

Amina’s life first changed when her father decided to marry her off at the young age of 16 to an abusive husband. Amina continued to live in fear for years, and with seven children in tow, making the decision to leave was not easy.

The second time Amina’s life changed was when the conflict in Syria started, forcing her to flee her house and move to Turkey:

“After surviving years of violence at home, the last thing I wanted was to flee violence outside as well,” says Amina.

She first moved to a refugee camp in Kilis, a city in south-central Turkey which currently hosts more than 120,000 Syrian refugees. After a year in the camp, Amina’s husband went back to Syria, leaving her as the sole breadwinner for a family of eight:

“I had to work in construction, together with men, until 3am every day,” she adds.

In the six years she has been living as a refugee in Turkey, Amina has had to overcome many challenges that included the death of her eldest son. Without anyone to support her, Amina was struggling to keep her will to live and her relationship with her children was severely affected.

With the help of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and funding from European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Amina received several psychosocial support sessions and legal counselling. She started receiving EU-funded monthly cash assistance that allows vulnerable refugees in Turkey to buy what they need most.

Today Amina is doing much better; she has a good relationship with her children and is getting better at communicating with others.

“After the sessions with DRC, my life completely changed,” she says with a smile:

“Women are survivors. We shouldn’t lose hope and we should remember that life moves on, and so do we,” she concludes.


Abdulrahman Web

It was a bleak night when the Syria conflict changed the lives of this family of five forever. When Abdulaziz and Fadya lost their son and his wife, they had no time to grieve as they found themselves forced to flee their country and responsible for their three grandchildren; 9-year-old Motassem, 5-year-old Fadya and 10-year-old Abdulrahman, who has a learning disability.

After arriving to Turkey, the couple made sure that both Motassem and Fadya were enrolled in schools.

“We just want to make sure the children get an education so they can build their own future,” says Fadya as she hugs Abdulrahman.

As a child with a learning disability, accessing education was challenging for Abdulrahman.

More than 684,000 school-aged Syrian children, out of 1.08 million, have access to education across the country. Children with disabilities however are at particular risk of missing out on years of education due to reasons such as overcrowded classrooms and lack of educational professionals.

With the help of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and funding from European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Abdulrahman was enrolled in a school for children with disabilities. The 10-year-old child’s life completely changed after that; he can now speak faster, has developed new skills and is interacting better with people.

“I want to grow up and manage a barber shop and earn millions,” says Abdulrahman with a laugh.


Kawthar Web

When the conflict in Syria reached the small village where Kawthar lived with her family, they were forced to flee their home. Moving from one area in Syria to another, looking for a safe place to stay, Kawthar was forced to quit school and give up her dream of becoming a doctor.

After several months on the move, the family decided to flee to Turkey and join the 3.6 million Syrian refugees who had found refuge in the country. As the family settled in their new home, Kawthar started looking for opportunities to advance her skills.

With support from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and funding from European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Kawthar attended psychosocial support sessions in her community, which led her to finding her true passion; helping people and refugees in Turkey. In a short period of time she gained her community’s trust and then became active as a volunteer.

“I feel blessed. People are calling me for help and I refer them to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that can help them,” says Kawthar.

“I feel satisfaction in helping people,” she adds with a smile.

While Kawthar enjoys volunteering, she dreams of doing bigger things:

“I want to become a doctor and go back to school,” she says. Kawthar knows she will be achieving her dream one day.

“I want to be a role model to Syrian girls. I want to let them know they can have a voice, they should just keep investing in themselves,” she concludes.


Fatma Web

Two years after the conflict in Syria started, Fatma and her family were forced to flee the violence. In 2014, the family arrived in Turkey and joined the 3.6 million Syrians who had found safety in the country. What they did not know, nor expect, was how important a single piece of paper would prove to be.

The family first received their Temporary Protection Identification documents (TPID), which allow refugees to access subsidised services and humanitarian aid.

“We could access everything we needed, we were surviving,” says Fatma, a 45-year-old mother.

As soon as the situation in their hometown allowed it, Fatma and her husband decided to visit their son, who was living in Syria at the time.

“We went there during Eid in 2017. After we came back, our lives completely changed,” says Fatma.

While in Syria, Fatmas’s 15-year-old son, Rayan, had lost their TPID cards, which made their life harder upon returning to Turkey. Without a TPID, refugees cannot move freely or access healthcare and education.

“We were afraid to leave the house,” says Fatma.

With the help of our legal team and funding from European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Fatma received legal counselling that helped the family get their TPID cards reissued. Fatma and her family also receive assistance through the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) that supports the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey through monthly cash assistance to ensure they can buy what they need most.

Like many other refugees, Fatma and her family continue to live in displacement as they hope to return home one day.