Communities in Turkey show the strength of solidarity

Publié: 23 juillet 2015 13:30 CET

By Javier Ormeno, reporting and communication delegate, IFRC Turkey

Earlier this month, I accompanied a Turkish Red Crescent on a visit to the society’s projects in Şanlıurfa in the south-east of the country, close to the border with Syria. Field work is always a welcome change from my usual work at the office, however this time was particularly inspiring for me, as I joined the team carrying out relief distributions close to the border areas, and I had the chance to meet and hear from the people affected by the latest population movements.

Turkey is among the countries that host the largest proportion of displaced people around the world today. Currently, there are over 1.7 million registered Syrian people living in the country; some 250,000 live in protection camps, but the vast majority are in urban and rural areas. The evolution of the conflict in Syria and Iraq continues to push people into Turkey, usually regarded as a safer haven.

On the first day I visited the small town of Cehver, close to the border with Syria. This is one of the many rural towns where the 900 km border seems virtually artificial, as the ethnicity and cultural practices of people on both sides of the line are almost indistinguishable and often families are spread across the boundary between the two countries.

While there, I met Abdulah (9), Mehmet (11), Halil (8), and Husseir (7). They are all cousins, one of them arrived just weeks ago from Syria, together with his family. “We are family, so they come and visit us,” Mehmet told me. “These days a lot of friends from Syria are coming to visit.”

During the final weeks of June 2015, nearly 24,000 people crossed the border, fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Mehmet’s candid expression reveals the way many Turkish people see Syrians; they are friends and family coming to Turkey because is not safe on the other side of the line. However, after four years of conflict, it is no longer just the displaced who are suffering from the effects of the fighting, but their host communities also. Recent estimates indicate that around 10 million people currently living in Turkey have been affected by the vast population movement of recent months and years.

The Akcakale border crossing is closed now, and the Turkish Red Crescent’s emergency response of distributing water and energy biscuits to incoming population is no longer required. Instead, the society is focusing its efforts on providing one-month food parcels to displaced people and the families that host them, many of which have already stretched their limited means and resources to breaking point to help their friends, families, and others in need.

The communities of Aksahrinc and Zenginova in Sanliurfa were also included in the distribution. These are rural communities where you can appreciate the diversity of affected population and how Syrian people are adapting to displacement with the help of friends and families.

The last day of my trip I visited the Turkish Red Crescent’s community centre in Eyyubiye district in Sanliurfa. As it was the weekend, there were no formal activities during my stay, however, I know that people attending courses during the week are able to engage in different activities assisted by volunteers and instructors. It was very interesting to see the members of the community supporting each other. For instance, one group of mothers take turns in caring for the children, while the others practice sewing in the available machines.

It was a pleasure to talk to Maya, Izzet and Eye, three Syrian girls whom I met there. They are volunteers and spend their spare time preparing teaching material for children. They are happy to come do this in their free time, when they are not attending Turkish language lessons at the centre. They told me that, for them, this is a safe place where they can do some stuff together.  Many people here think that way. We call this a community centre, and I am happy is working as a place for people to get together.