Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tales of survival in Syrian refugee camp, UNHCR Camp Suruc in Turkey

AS conflict continues to ravage Syria, and the number of internally displaced people grows, we can lose sight of individual stories.

Last month, I visited one the largest UNHCR camps, Camp Suruc, at the Syrian/Turkish border. It houses around 35000 people in 7000 tents. Most of the refugees are Syrian. Out of the 3 million refugees that Turkey is hosting, 2.7 million are Syrian. Most refugees in this camp were Kurds.
The camps are divided into 15 neighbourhoods and this small village has basic shops, a hairdresser, and a supermarket.

The Turkish officials talked about their “Syrian brothers and sisters” and explained they were ‘‘guests’’ in their country. This language says a lot.
Within the camp — and in houses outside the camp — I met kind men and strong women and resilient children, all of whose lives have been shattered, all of whom had trauma.
Many were white-collar workers, such as public servants and qualified professionals. They fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs and, often, with relatives left behind.

We know that life goes on in refugee camps. People fall in love, get married and have children. Like in any community, bad things occur as well. We know that in a crisis setting issues such as violence and abuse are compounded.
Evidence suggests child marriage has increased in this current conflict for many women and girls. But we do not know exact figures.
I met with one family in a house in the heart of old Sanliurfa. It was described as a “two-storey house with a garden”. Of course, the rooms were bare and housed many people from each family in one room. Yet, the gratitude of the Syrian refugees is overwhelming.

Despite their circumstances, they emphasised their happiness at the moment the border opened and they ephasize the kind support of the Turkish people.
One form of support is the World Food Program (WFP) which supplies e-food cards for special WFP supermarkets. Australia contributes to the WFP programs in countries around Syria.
A critical element of support is provided through community centres. The Middle East Peace Research (IMPR) runs a community centre in Sanliufa that delivers activities such as Turkish courses, computer training, hairdressing and sewing classes.
I watched as young women practised doing hair and make-up, all behind curtains away from male eyes, and I talked to budding artists, even a rap star who made us cry with his lyrics that captured his family’s ordeal.

I saw men and women training on computers and practising their languages (yes, most were multilingual). We know that ensuring continuing education for children especially in humanitarian disasters is essential. That is what this centre is doing.
The art classes serve a range of purposes. The centre provides psychological support, and part of this is the recreational activities they undertake. Some of the pictures that were drawn and painted by children and adults were confronting insights into things they had experienced: death of loved ones, abuse, pain and child labour.
I left the camp with an embroidered towel made by the women — a kind gift from people who are living with so little.

Source: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/natasha-stott-despoja-tales-of-survival-in-syrian-refugee-camp-unhcr-camp-suruc-in-turkey/news-story/b4889efb0833ed4ff282f27f1d4a31fc 

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