Women and children: Victims of man’s war

Published 18.11.2014 02:05

It was 2011 when Turkey first established a temporary protection and open border system for the continuous influx of Syrian refugees to Turkey. Ever since, Turkey has been assisting refugees in camps and there is no forced return on the table regardless of the outcome of the war in the coming days. There are almost 1.5 million registered refugees in the country with many still awaiting registration. There is currently no indication of an end to the war anytime soon.

Despite having more than 15 minority camps along the Syrian border in Turkey, the largest portion of Syrian refugees in Turkey however, is outside of camps, living in the big cities. In many provinces in the southeast of Turkey, only one in eight refugees is living in camps. This means a sizable number of the Syrian population is around the cities on their own, making it difficult to obtain detailed information about this population outside the camps so as to keep an accurate record. Thus, growing numbers make it challenging to register the people in the cities.

The larger population in the cities living under basic conditions with no social care or education is mostly in a traumatic psychology having experienced many losses in Syria with no hope for the future. Despite Turkey's great efforts to try and provide the basic needs of the refugees living in camps, identifying the needs of the Syrian population outside the camps is another major issue. Most of the time, these expected needs are also the essential needs of the poor local population in these areas. A father in the southeastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa said that the Turkish state delivered new shoes for Syrian children in the camps, yet he is unable to afford to buy new shoes for any of his three small children. Thus, Turkey should reconsider the balance of its philanthropic activity in the region.

When we speak about health care, social care, schooling, simply the basic needs of children, Turkey needs to consider the overall situation in the region. However, developing concrete and tangible solutions for children, especially in terms of schooling, is imperative where many of them are still under trauma. If they forget or cannot remember what happened to them, or even if they know of no social environment other than the camp, they still cannot perceive the camp environment as a natural one, because they are living with adults who have been influenced by the civil war trauma. The primary observation by many social care experts was that Syrian children, when they hear fireworks for example, during a very peaceful night in Istanbul, very quickly hide under the table in great horror or wet their pants, because the noise created by the fireworks resembles the bombs that were dropped over them.

There is no doubt that it is the women and children who suffer most in humanitarian crises. The poor living conditions of mothers reflect on their children, negatively affecting their health. Bad hygiene, inadequate space for every individual in shared rooms and houses and high stress among family members because of the conditions they have no choice but to accept and live in has physical and mental impacts on all of the children. The case here is not that of 100-200 children but thousands. Tens of thousands of children are facing not only poor conditions, poor health care and poor nourishment, but also high levels of stress from the adults around them. Remember, the adults who grew up in Syria have a memory of the country before and during war, while children may only have a memory of the war-torn Syria. The number of pregnant women refugees is very high and children born here will be the youth of Turkey not Syria, as was the case of the children of Turkish guest workers' who migrated to Germany 40 years ago.

Unfortunately, many of the children who remained in Syria or ended up living in the camps set up in other neighboring countries, suffered from violent and fearful situations and have not been attending school. Since 2012, in Turkey, all of the children living in camps are able to attend school with their Syrian teachers and limited numbers can go to school in the cities. This is a very simple and open call on behalf of Syrian children. Turkey's conditions and capacity are extended over its limits. We all need to reach out and do something for the children. Even if it means that you need to raise your voice, do it and make it heard that Assad should step down. Call the world to recognize the situation. Ask for more for Syrian children, do not let this be their destiny.

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