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From Syria to Turkey: When A Father Becomes Everything

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Ismail, 38, lost his wife in Syria, before fleeing with his children to Turkey, where EU humanitarian assistance helped Ahmed, 5, Nour, 10, Hala, 8, Reem, 11, secure a safer future. Photo credit: Khaled Mostafa/CARE

The displaced in Syria continue to move as they persistently come under fire from the ongoing violence in their home country. For those living in such turmoil, Turkey represents a safe haven and many Syrians have fled there in an attempt to establish a life of normalcy and safety. Children are among the most vulnerable groups in conflict. These days Ismail, who recently lost his wife, is more than a father to his four children, caring for them after a journey from danger to sanctuary.

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Khaled Mostafa, Advocacy and Communications Advisor, CARE International in Turkey

My four children and I endured a terrible time crossing rugged roads until our feet touched Turkish land,” says Ismail, 38, describing his family’s difficult journey to Turkey from an embattled Syria. “We arrived less than a month ago.” Originally from Aleppo, the family had been displaced five times before being forced to flee to Turkey. The death of his wife, following a fire in their home, was the final impetus to find safety. “My pregnant wife died from her burns,” he shares. “We spent the whole day searching for hospitals, but sadly none were equipped to treat her. She passed away in the car, the baby as well.”  

In Turkey, finding a job has been Ismail's biggest challenge. ““If I could find any job, I wouldn’t have asked for help. My children need to eat and have clothes on their back.  I came here with almost nothing. I had to leave behind even the little things I owned in Syria,” he says quietly. “I try to avoid the moment when my son Nour asks me to buy him a small treat.

Since arriving in Turkey, the family has lived with Ismail’s brothers and their families, in a modest apartment located in a town south east of the country. Although the families are squeezed together, Ismail’s children feel safer than in Syria.

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Reem, 11, fled Syria with her family. With EU humanitarian assistance, her family has been able to secure a home. Photo credit: Khaled Mostafa/CARE

Now, thanks to CARE’s case management program that helps to identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable groups, Ismail has found an apartment close to his brothers’ place. CARE, through a project funded by EU Humanitarian Aid, ensured Ismail could rent a flat for his family while looking for work.  

My daughter, Hala, has been suffering from asthma since we arrived in Syria. She feels more comfortable in the new apartment,” Ismail says. Many Syrians live in small and inadequately-equipped apartments.  As such, there is often a lack of space for the family and damp or mildew-covered interiors that can further aggravate childhood asthma. Living in this new apartment, the four children are feeling more at ease.

However, the biggest challenge is getting the children to school. In Syria, Ismail ensured the three oldest children attended private lessons with a neighborhood teacher, but this quickly ended after the village was bombed and the teacher was killed. Sadly, this is all too common across war-torn Syria, where school attendance has dropped by 50 per cent. “I’m determined to send my children to schools in Turkey,” Ismail adds, revealing that despite the many hardships, he remains optimistic about the future.