Refugees may not be eligible to vote or be elected, but an assembly set up by a Turkish nonprofit organization gives them a platform to air their grievances in a democratic way and find solutions to their problems.
The Refugees Assembly set up by the Refugees and Migrants Solidarity and Charity Association is made up of refugees from all around the world who took shelter in Turkey and admits volunteers only. They sometimes take unanimous decisions on improving their situation and they sometimes do not, but any agreement between members end up in a joint declaration [often a request on a problem they faced] and is sent to relevant authorities handling refugee affairs.
Fatih Gökyıldız, a Turkish official at the association, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the assembly was part of a project for the social integration of refugees.
"We also help them get together with local people in seminars, panels, and so forth," he said.
Syrians, Uighurs, Uzbeks, Afghans and Egyptians are among the members of the assembly and most of them are university graduates. Hülya Rana Şahin, who runs the project on behalf of the association, says refugees were able to express their opinions in a free environment and become part of the solution to their problems. Currently, the assembly has 20 members.
"We want an opinion input from them to our work for refugees. Rather than focusing on individual problems for each refugee, we seek solutions to broader social issues," Şahin says.
Anas Alipasha, a Syrian member of the assembly, says they have an important task for social integration and helps other refugees to learn more about Turkey, its laws and customs. Alipasha, who fled civil war in his country six years ago and lives in Istanbul, says he works as a translator in the assembly, his occupation outside the assembly.
"We invited people from different backgrounds, lawyers, doctors, engineers, et cetera, and established four committees on law, social media, charity and education. Every committee has its own targets to help further to fellow refugees," he said.
Their main goal is integration, so, they seek to inform refugees everything about Turkey.
"Most Syrians do not know them," he added.
The education committee focuses on the increasing schooling rate of refugees, a main obstacle to the integration.
"I believe the assembly will be a voice for refugees," he said.