Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey seeking refuge from the five-year-old civil war in their country have found a meaningful way to thank Turks for embracing them. Under the coordination of a Qatar-based charity, skilled Syrians are helping impoverished Turkish families to repair and paint their houses.
Qatar's Eid Charity is running an aid campaign entitled "Yaşasın Türkiye" (meaning ‘Long Live Turkey') which organizes Syrian volunteers to help Turkish families. The campaign started in the southern city of Mersin, a hub for many of the nearly three million Syrian refugees who found a safe haven in Turkey. Volunteers include construction workers who do charity work, ranging from painting houses to repairing broken bathroom tiles, fixing electrical problems and pipes. Volunteers worked in the homes of nine families and plan to expand their work all across the city.
Ahmad Rajab, a Syrian volunteer, said they wanted to express their gratitude to the Turkish people "who opened the doors for Syrians," and for a long time have thought of how to pay back this favor. "Others like myself worked as repairmen back in Syria, and this is the least we can do for our Turkish brothers and sisters," he says. Rajab says their help is not confined to repairs, and they also supply materials for home maintenance to needy families.
Since the uprising against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria evolved into all-out civil war, Turkey has embraced an open-door policy for those fleeing the brutal conflict and has accommodated a small number of refugees in tent camps located across the border. Turkey is among the major donors accepting refugees, and has the largest number of Syrian refugees. Turkey also hosts several opposition figures, who frequently convene in Istanbul to discuss strategies to counter the oppression imposed by the Assad regime on the opposition.