A forty-five-year-old Halit El Ali came with his wife and their five children to Turkey from Syria in 2015. It was not an easy decision for this Syrian family. After their house was destroyed during the conflict, they embarked on a challenging journey to Turkey, finally settling down in the Suruç district.
Halit, a successful lawyer back in the Syrian city of Rakka, couldn't find any suitable job for three years. In search of new job opportunities, they moved to Şanlıurfa.
"Living in a camp was very helpful despite all difficulties. We got financial support and were doing quite well. However, after we left the camp, I needed to find a job and ended up teaching at school as my legal degree was useless in those circumstances", told Halit.
Besides job-seeking struggles, Halit and his family found themselves amidst the pandemic in a new country with different traditions and cultures.
"There are many good things in Turkey; take, for example, the healthcare system. It is excellent, which is especially important during the pandemic. However, we just faced cultural barriers, and it was challenging to integrate."
Halit had a couple of stress coping strategies that helped him overcome his struggles: reading and music lessons. Back home in Syria, Halit had a personal library of 1500 books before it was destroyed with their house. He also brought his passion for reading to Turkey, and he likes several Turkish writers like Aziz Nesin and Yaşar Kemal. But his favourite book of all time is "How the Steel Was Tempered" by Nikolai Ostrovsky, he read it at school. He was deeply impressed by how eloquently the author writes about human values such as love, courage, altruism. These are the values that guide Halit's life.
Along with his passion for reading, Halit enjoys music too. He participated in the 'Music Club' activity organized by the IOM Turkey psychosocial support team. When we ask him about the project, he recalls it with a smile:
"The project was excellent; we learned to play the baglama online. The music teacher was lovely and encouraging. Before the activity, I played the baglama at an amateur level, but I learned to do it well through this activity. I felt motivated. It was difficult to cope with all the challenges of my migration journey, but this exercise kept me going."
During the COVID-19-caused quarantine, this activity created a network of all participants, providing a safe space for learning and sharing experiences. In addition, the music lessons made it easier and less stressful for everyone to go through the quarantine.
"For me, music is a way to nourish my soul. Music impacts my behavior and relationships with people around me. Music inspires my children too," explained Halit.
Having found his new home in Turkey, Halit still has pleasant memories about Syria, his motherland, where he got married, studied, and had children. He hopes to return to Syria and continue working as a lawyer one day.