Hussein (37) from Aleppo, Syria tailoring at his home in Kilis, Turkey. March 2019. Photo by: Mais Salman/DRC

Starting over in refuge

After losing everything they have worked for to the war in Syria, three refugees in Turkey are rebuilding their lives from scratch.


In a country that is ravaged by war and violent conflict, losing everything you have worked for your entire life can happen in the blink of an eye. You start your day having a job, a house, and a family and by the end of the day, you find yourself displaced, running for your life having lost everything. Hussein, Ibrahim and Faten’s lives were interrupted when the war in Syria erupted having to start over as refugees in Turkey.

After fleeing the war, finding a way to rebuild their lost lives was the hardest challenge Syrian refugees met while in Turkey. “I had my own business and house in Aleppo, but the war in Syria ruined the life we spent our whole lives building,” said Hussein, a Syrian refugee who lives in Kilis with his family of seven. The 37-year-old man joined the more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees (DGMM, April 2019) in the country after he lost his house and tailor shop back home. Not losing hope, Hussein decided to reopen the shop in Kilis and start over.

With the help of the Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) Economic Recovery Programme, Hussein received productive assets (equipment) that allowed him to establish his new shop.  DRC supported by the Federal Republic of Germany through KfW, also thanks to the Government of Turkey’s collaborative attitude, helps Syrian refugees to access wage and self-employment and be economic self-reliant through this Programme. By offering various types of support (trainings, grants etc.) aiming at strengthening people employability or ability to start-up private Medium or Small Enterprises (MSMEs), DRC has helped more than 15,207 vulnerable Syrian refugees and host community members in 2018.

Sff Turkey Ibrahim

Ibrahim (55) roasting coffee beans at home in Şanlıurfa, Turkey. March 2019. Photo by: Mais Salman/DRC

Just like Hussein, Ibrahim also lost everything he has worked for to the war in Syria. He lost his house and shop in one day and found himself in the streets, looking for a safe place. “When I came here, I did not know the language and that made my life harder,” said the 55-year-old Syrian refugee.

After joining the more than 400,000 Syrian refugees living in Sanliurfa (DGMM, April 2019), Ibrahim had no idea where to start from and had to take odd jobs to make ends meet, until he learned about the DRC business grants. Ibrahim was able to start his coffee making business in his own house. He roasts and packages coffee beans at home which has helped him make a living while in exile. “I am still new to the business. I want to learn and expand to be able to lead a better life,” he said as he sealed a bag of freshly roasted coffee.

Sff Turkey Faten

Faten running her coiffeur salon in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey. March 2019. Photo by: Mais Salman/DRC

The need for available revenues for refugees to work and earn is vital for both men and women to ensure they have normal lives despite their refugee status. For Faten, a mother of six, having to borrow money just to afford life in Turkey was no longer an option. “I had my own salon that was called Najmet Al Sahra [the star of the evening]. It was completely destroyed by the war,” she said with a sad look in her eyes. To help her husband support their family, Faten decided to reopen her business in Kahramanmaraş.

To help Faten grow her salon, DRC supported her through productive assets so that she could start-up her home-based salon. “I want to expand into other areas like makeup and facials. With the support of DRC, I will hopefully be able to see my dream come true,” she said with a hopeful smile.

Refugees like Hussein, Faten and Ibrahim have the right to work, make a living and interact with their host community. While they all wait for a solution to their displacement, they continue to work hard and dream of a better future; Hussein dreams of helping other refugees by offering them work opportunities, Faten dreams of having a big beauty centre and Ibrahim wants to enroll in a Turkish course in order to be able to market his product to the local community.