• Gamze ADLI | National Communications Officer

Hatay – Two earthquakes on 6 February 2023 claimed the lives of tens of thousands, turned the lives of hundreds of thousands upside down, and will forever be etched into the memory of millions. Like many in the affected region, Ahmed found himself in the midst of completely different life plans. 

Fleeing from war in Syria and seeking refuge in Türkiye in 2011, Ahmed worked various jobs over the years. However, his true passion lay in the kitchen. In 2017, he accomplished a dream he held for a long time – opening the doors of his restaurant, Al Pasha, to customers. 

Having gone through many challenges in the past decade, the toughest test of his life came last year. He was in his home when the earthquakes struck. He was fortunate to survive but experienced significant financial and spiritual losses. While facing the pain of losing his loved ones, he carried on by trying his best to support the community that welcomed him when he left Syria. 

Ahmed began transporting earthquake survivors to safe locations, volunteering in search operations and providing food to earthquake survivors in his province. 

"I lost my relatives, so I wanted to take an active role in search operations," he said. "I love this country very much. I wanted to help the people of this country during their times of suffering."

When the initial impacts of the earthquake passed, his business, Al Pasha, became even more crucial as the only Syrian restaurant in the region. He experienced an uptick in business following increased internal migration in his province. However, he needed support to restore his restaurant, which was badly damaged. "We said, 'We've done what we can.' Everything was limited, but still, we didn't give up. There is always hope." 

He found the support he was looking for through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)'s cash grant programme. The goal of IOM's cash grant programme is to provide migrant, refugee, and local communities with enhanced livelihood opportunities so that they can become economically self-sufficient. "Ahmet’s ambition to expand his business, offer his cultural cuisine and provide employment opportunities aligned perfectly with the criteria for selection in the programme.’ 

Through IOM’s cash grant programme, Ahmed was able to purchase a cabinet and a Broaster (fried chicken machine), which his community loves the most. Photo: IOM 2024/Başak Yirmibeşoğlu

One year after the earthquakes, Ahmed is focusing on his business and family, working to overcome difficulties with his five children, elderly parents and his siblings with disabilities. However, as Ahmed says, hope never dies. He continues to make new plans for his life, expand his business and realize his dreams. 

"I have many dreams. I want to continue with the same business and expand this place with material and equipment upgrades." 

What Ahmed experienced is a testament that healing after such tragedy can only happen when we come together. 

Ahmed is one of 562 individuals who received cash grant support from IOM in 2023, as part of efforts to drive socioeconomic recovery in the earthquake-affected region. Support was made possible by the Republic of Korea and U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).