Refugee Needs Greater than Ever in Turkey
Her husband imprisoned amid Syria’s civil war, Haya* left everything behind when she and her children fled to Turkey four years ago and set up home in a dilapidated house with an outdoor toilet. Then last month neighbors set it on fire.
The neighbors were also foreigners – Romani (“Gypsies”) embittered over her repeated requests that they stop dumping their trash outside her house. Her complaints to officials of the city in southern Turkey led to the municipality taking legal action against the Romani, so they had threatened to burn her house.
“I never thought they would do something like that, but the next day, while my children and I were having breakfast, I realized there was black smoke in the house, and my little daughter said, ‘Mommy, Mommy, the curtain’s on fire,'” Haya said. “So immediately I brought my daughters out, and in 30 minutes the house was in flames. I couldn’t take a single thing out.”
The director of an indigenous ministry that brings aid to the family visited Haya the next morning.
“They were crying even when she was telling me what had happened,” he said. “She was hardly talking with me, because it was very hard for her and her daughters who had lost everything they had obtained. I said, ‘God is great; He will never leave you alone.’ So we need emergency help for her and for her daughters.”
“They were crying even when she was telling me what had happened,” the director said. I said, ‘God is great; He will never leave you alone.'”
Like hundreds of other Syrian refugees in a country where officials are doing away with tent camps, Haya and her three daughters found themselves homeless. She had been talking with the ministry director about how to get set up to work from home, but now she and her daughters had no choice but to move in with her sister, brother-in-law and their six children – already crammed into a single, three-meter by three-meter room.
“We brought Haya two food packages, and we went to her sister’s house to see the conditions they live in, and it was even worse than Haya’s house,” the director said.
This existence is a far cry from the happy life as a farmer’s wife she had in Aleppo, Syria. Haya had two young daughters and was awaiting the birth of the third when suddenly her husband and his brothers were imprisoned without charges in matters apparently related to Syria’s civil war. Haya and her four sisters made the dangerous trek with their children to Turkey.
She has spent four years in the slum struggling to survive from day to day. Scrambling for income while caring for small children, she recently made a desperate decision.
“She felt her only choice was to send her 9-year-old daughter to the street corner to sell napkins and beg for $3-$5 per day,” the director said. “It isn’t enough. How will they make it? Each day Haya worries about her little daughter working on the street corner. Will she come home? Will she be abused?”
Their clothes their only possession, Haya is desperate to find a safe place for her family.
“She is in a collapsed situation; she is desperately waiting for anyone to reach out to her and for her daughters,” the director said.
Sent by Friends of Jesus
The director of another ministry in Turkey agreed that life is getting bleaker for Syrian refugees as officials end tent camps and demand that people find apartments – for which opportunistic landlords are charging exorbitant rents.
“Before, when families were living in tents, our main concern was supplying them with food, but now we must also think of rent, electricity, water bills and the like,” he said.
Food remains their most important need, and the ministry provides rice, sugar, flour, beans, oil and breakfast items.
“The very skinny little kids have a hard time getting enough protein, so providing milk and cheese is also helpful,” he said. “The mothers often beg for ‘a little more please’ with tears in their eyes. We are so grateful for what we are able to share with them.”
The ministry’s top priority in the food purchases with assistance from Christian Aid Mission donors is to show Jesus’ love to the refugees, he said.
“I don’t like to just give them a package of food or other items and then just leave them. I prefer to have a relationship with them and have a chance to say, ‘We are sent by friends of Jesus who can’t see you but love you,'” he said. “I often ask them what prayer requests can I share with these friends. They always ask that I encourage prayers for their children. They are seeing that, as the children’s needs are met through your generosity and prayers, seeds are planted in their hearts that will allow them to choose a better life.”
Like the first director who is building gospel bridges with Haya and her Sunni Muslim family, he oversees the spiritual growth of refugees who have placed their faith in Christ for their salvation.
“Please don’t forget that there are thousands here who are still suffering with demonic oppression and living in horribly sinful situations,” he said. “I feel very grateful for you and your prayers and financial support, because without it I couldn’t do any of these things. I’m constantly in prayer that God will help me to use every penny you give me to bless others.”
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*Name changed for security reasons