06 Nov 2021
By: Begüm Başaran

"For us, migrating was not an option; it was a matter of survival. The last drop was the recruitment of 15-year-old children soldiers. At that time my children were almost reaching this age, and we knew that it would become unavoidable” recalls Cevhara.   

Cevhara is a 51-year-old Syrian refugee and mother of five children. With the support of her family, she could early on pursue her higher education to become a teacher in Rakka. However, the Syrian crisis interrupted her 20-year career. . “My kids were terrified by the constant airstrikes and bomb shelling – we had to leave.”  

On top of all the dangers of war, Ceyhara, like many other Syrian women, struggled with the strict rules for women that were imposed on her: she couldn’t leave her house without an accompanying man, her face fully covered, and she couldn’t continue working at school as all of them were closed.  

Her journey to Turkey in 2016 was full of dangers and eventually led her to Reyhanli. Later, she and her family settled down in Sanliurfa, where they currently reside. At the beginning, it was not easy for them to cope with all the challenges; big expenses,  high rental costs, lack of employment opportunities, etc. This all was very different from their realities in the pre-conflict Syria where they even had their own house, Cevhara added.t, Now, they lost everything. 

Her initial contact with IOM has been through the Solar Dryer project that provides employment opportunities for women. And Ceyhara has been one of those employed women in the scope of the project... “This initiative has changed my life: now I can financially support my family which is a psychological relief”.

"The project teaches me a lot of things; I learn about all the necessary steps of the production cycle at the solar dryer facility—from washing and pretreatment to drying, cooling, and packing. Of course, it's in a new field for me.  But it is amazing to work again and earn money – I’ve always worked in my life and it’s really important to me. Plus, it is incredible to work with other women together. I am really grateful for this initiative and the support it gives to women like me. It makes me feel happy!   

The Solar Dryer project has become more than a workplace and a source of new knowledge and experiences. It’s also a meeting place where Ceyhara found new friends which were almost impossible under the existing rules and the pandemic.  “I consider myself really lucky to have an opportunity to finally meet people in Turkey.” 

With her new life and aspirations, Ceyhara concludes: “We have common human values that should unite us instead of dividing us...and we should leverage this!”