Displaced twice: Syria’s Somali people seek shelter in Turkey

Friday, January 31, 2014

On the run for a second time in their lives Syria’s Somalis find refuge in Turkey


The Syrian conflict has displaced millions – over half a million alone have fled to Turkey, but the war has taken its toll on other nationalities who made Syria their home. A community of around ten thousand Somalis who went to Syria 25 years ago, after escaping the civil war which turned the African country into a failed state for twenty years, have now become refugees a second time in a generation.

Fatima Muhammed Abd, in her 60s, is one of thousand or so registered Somali refugees from Syria living in Ankara, according to Turkish aid agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), who say that the real number is more likey to be around three times higher.

Mother of four, Abd now lives in a three-room ‘gecekondu’, a shanty house in a low-income neighborhood on the outskirts of Ankara, – with her three sons, in their twenties.

“We were living in Syria since 2004 and everything was all right until the uprising turned into a bloody conflict two years ago,” Abd tells an Anadolu Agency reporter who visited the family in their home in the neighbourhood of Altındag.

Syria was her home for ten years, her family were settled and her son had a good job at the Somali embassy in Damascus.

Recalling her experience in Syria before the family fled eight months ago Abd says: “After the conflict erupted, the conditions in Syria became really bad. There were no jobs, no schools and even no bread. Nobody’s life is safe there any more.”

She says only one of her sons is working and he is supporting the whole family of ten. Her son works as a translator from Arabic to Turkish. They survive on his salary and also get food from Turkish charities to survive.

He is also supporting his sister, Abd’s thirty-five year old daughter, Hirda Awil Jama, – who also fled Syria eight months ago – and lives on the first floor of the same building with her six children – all under eight. “My husband lost his job in Syria and fled to back Somalia. I am on my own with my six children in Turkey, depending on handouts from huminatirian foundations and local comminity,” says Jama.

Habibullah Orhan, a local businessman, provides daily aid to Somali refugees living in Ankara. Abd says he is like a son to her. “He looks after us. We all depend on his and other neighbors’ aid,” she adds.

Orhan says two of his tenants are from Somalia and one from Syria, and he lets them live there free of charge.

Orhan says he is not the only person to help the Somalis in Ankara – who he estimates are made up of around four hundred families, “local people provide aid to them. The council also gives them coal once in every three months. They all live in very bed conditions, totally depending on handouts.”

Another Somali refugee Abdurrahman Husein, 22, lives in the same neighborhood in a bare two-roomed flat with his younger brother and a relative. “I was studying theology in one of Damascus universities, but I had to leave everything behind and move toTurkey a year ago” says Abdurrahman.

If he is lucky he can get a cash-in-hand job that will pay him enough to cover the monthly rent of 170 lira. “I don’t have a regular job. Whenever the boss calls me I go to work in the furniture shop. Sometimes he doesn’t call for weeks,” says Abdurrahman.

He only makes 200 lira a week if he is lucky enough to find work.

Abdurrahman’s younger brother Ahmad Hamid, 17, is studying Turkish in a language school. “He doesn’t have a job. So, I have to look after him too” says Abdurrahman.

“Our parents live back home in Somali, also in poor conditions,” he says.

Abdurrahman, who speaks fluent Turkish, says there are about 150 Somali families living in the immediate neighborhood. “The Syrian conflict turned my life upside-down, and now I have to rebuild my life here in Turkey” he adds.

Syria’s nearly three-year-old armed conflict has killed more than 130,000 people since the uprising began in March 2011 and forced millions from their homes, according to figures from the United Nations.

In a small three-roomed flat, another refugee, mother of three teenagers, Jamila Mohammad lives with eight people – her own mother in her seventies, her three children and three relatives one of whom is disabled.

First they fled Somalia in late 1990s, they fed again from Syria to Turkey two years ago .

“I had a job in Syria and my children were going to school. Now, we totally depend on humanitarian aid from our Turkish neighbours and humanitarian charities. I have to pay 150 lira rent per month for the flat. It is quite hard to make a living here since I don’t have a work,” she says.

She explains that one of her relatives living with them, Abdullah Hassan, is unable to walk. She says they have to look after him too.

Hassan says: “When I was working illegally in Saudi Arabia, I was hit by a car. Since then, I am not able to walk. Saudi authorities deported my wife and me. We had no place to turn but Turkey.”

Hassan’s wife, Maryam Ahmed, says the rules on immigrants in Saudi Arabia are too strict. “I appreciate that Turkey allowed us to live here as a refugee,” she says.

Some of their relatives still live back in Saudi Arabia and help them, she says: “But it is not enough to make a living.”

Somalia’s Kiss Of Life – citizennews