Amina is a mother of five and lives in Adana, Turkey. She has had to overcome many challenges. Although she had to flee a war and cope with her husband’s death, Amina feels confident about the future, knowing she is not alone.
Amina** is a 36-year-old woman who is taking care of her five children on her own. She looked quiet, calm, and a little shy as she entered Support to Life office in Adana, where we agreed to meet for the interview. When she started telling her story with Arabic translation support of our colleague, I realized that my first impression was false. She was composed and confident as she told her story, as if talking about her experiences was a way of healing the pain she went through.
Amina is one of the 1.7 million Syrian refugee women living in Turkey today. From the outside, her life story may look like many other refugees’, yet it is unique.
The Toughest Year
Amina used to live in a camp in Turkey with her family when she went to a hospital with her husband who was suffering from continuous pain. He was diagnosed with cancer. He started receiving long chemotherapy sessions, while Amina worked as a hairdresser in the camp to support her family. Still, her husband needed continuous care, so she had to quit her job to take care of him and their children. The situation became harder as she faced financial difficulties.
Alone and Distressed
After a long struggle, Amina’s best friend - her husband - passed away when he was only 36. It was the same time when many camps in Turkey were closed, including the one she was living in. Amina was all by herself with her five children and had no idea what to do. She had no choice but to go to another city where she knew some people, hoping for familiar faces to help her. “The few people I knew there were busy with their families and could not be there for me,” she said. “I was a widow and could not go out or leave the children alone. After I lost my husband, living in a different world became more distressing.”
She was lost, she did not know what to do as she was used to living in a camp, but this changed when her path crossed with Support to Life. We helped her replace her camp identity card with the temporary protection card, which allowed her to access essential services. Amina says: “They provided me with guidance to get food and cash support, and helped me register my address.”
A New Life and New Challenges
The next stop was Adana. Amina’s words and eyes described her surprise and happiness at hearing our team member in Adana speak Arabic with her. She finally sensed a moment of relief.
Our social worker initially helped Amina update her identity in Adana and get her address registered. Afterwards, the children were enrolled in school, but this was not the end of her problems. In the substandard apartment she rented, Amina was subject to mistreatment by her neighbor who saw Amina as a “threat”. She continuously harassed Amina and her children verbally to push them to leave. One night, the verbal harassment developed into physical violence and Amina and her children had to leave. They spent the night outside.
Support to Life started assisting Amina under a project addressing protection needs and strengthening local service provision and protective environment for displaced populations in Turkey, funded by European Union Humanitarian Aid. The project supports vulnerable people who were subject to violence due to their gender together with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). When we heard the news, our team provided one night of accommodation for the family. Finally, they returned to their home where they found out that their small savings were stolen. Amina and her children left the house and now are living in a new place.
Effect of the Pandemic
According to a study, the number of unemployed refugees increased to 88% due to the pandemic***. Amina and her family are a living example of this problem. Amina could not find a job before the pandemic and had to send her teenage daughters Sena and Rama to work as apprentices at a tailor for small monthly payments. When the pandemic hit Turkey, her daughters were laid off. Now, Amina and her family receive monthly cash support under the EU-funded Emergency Social Security Net (ESSN) and borrow money to be able to cover their needs. Despite all the challenges, Amina is happy. “I could have been in a much worse situation if I had not met your organization. Identity documents, address registration, school enrollment were all difficult processes for me. With your help, I have hope for the future. I know if something happens to me, I have someone to call. Even if my husband is deceased, I feel safe thanks to you.”
Dream For Future
Amina has a dream for the future. “It is very important to have a job”, she said. “I want to work at a salon as a hairdresser, like I used to when I was at the camp. I want my children to be safe and live without having any problems.”
As Support to Life, we are working to make sure people like Amina can stand on their own feet. We hope that Amina will have a bright future and will no longer need our support.
Support to Life Communication Officer
*This article was first published on the website of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
**Names of our beneficiary and her family are changed for protection reasons.