Imran Jasem is among the thousands of Syrians who had to flee their country when the civil war broke out. Two years after the unrest began, Jasem sought shelter with his family in Turkey in 2013. Almost a decade later, he is back in his homeland – this time to rebuild it.
Jasem, who graduated from Uludağ University in the northwestern Turkish province of Bursa, where he studied civil engineering, now works for the city council of his hometown Tal Abyad, a northern Syrian town liberated from the terrorist groups with Turkey's support.
“We are the children of Tal Abyad. We have to return. We have to rebuild it,” he says. Turkey has long been the primary destination of displaced Syrians and the country hosts more than 3.7 million Syrian refugees. The ongoing war deters millions from returning to their native country, but some 480,000 people have voluntarily returned to safer areas of Syria. Tal Abyad, though still reeling under the threat of terrorism, is among them. Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had helped liberate the town from the YPG, the Syrian branch of the terrorist group PKK, in 2019 with its Operation Peace Spring.
The life of 25-year-old Jasem and his family changed when the Daesh terrorist group, which was expelled from the town by the YPG/PKK in 2015, occupied Tal Abyad in 2013. The family settled in Gaziantep, a Turkish province near the border, but four months later, his parents returned to Syria. However, he stayed behind to continue his education and could not reunite them until 2020. After graduating from high school in Turkey, he got admission to the university and graduated with a degree in civil engineering last year.
Jasem says it was his childhood dream to be a civil engineer and he had to leave Tal Abyad to pursue it. “The YPG and the Daesh were forcibly recruiting the youth, so I could not go back,” he recounted. Jasem took an exam in Turkey for international students but failed nine times. He was determined, though, and passed the tenth exam. He could not adjust to life at university in a foreign country, but he overcame the odds and completed the four-year program in three years, thanks to his exceptionally high grades. . “I remember the stress I was going through while studying for exams in October 2019 but after hearing about Peace Spring operation took away all the stress,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday. “After the operation ended, I had hope for the future. I started dreaming about returning to Syria, to reunite my family,” he recalled.
He is grateful to Turkey for giving him the education opportunity and thousands of others from Syria. “This is my second home,” he stated.