One woman’s journey to find hope in Turkey, after escaping Syria

Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Menal Suleyman, at the age of 30, is a mother of three, a widow, and a refugee from Syria. Photo: UN Women/Sinem Aydin Lopez
Photo: UN Women/Sinem Aydin Lopez

Menal Suleyman, at the age of 30, is a mother of three, a widow, and a refugee from Syria. Fleeing the violence in Syria, Suleyman has found a new life, and hope, in Turkey, assisted by the “SADA Women-only Centre”, a UN Women-led project in Gaziantep.

Suleyman left Syria with her three children in November 2016, after her husband died and the conflict reached her hometown, Latakia. She arrived in Izmir, a city on Turkey's western coast, hoping to find a boat that would take them to Greece. From there, Suleyman wanted to travel to her brother in France.

Menal Suleyman left Syria with her three children in November 2016, after her husband died. Photo: UN Women/Sinem Aydin Lopez
Photo: UN Women/Sinem Aydin Lopez

Suleyman and her children spent three months in Izmir before their first attempt to flee to the nearby Greek islands. The boat was overloaded and nearly sank. The Turkish coast guards rescued them and they were held at a police station that night. In her second attempt, after a month, 65 people were crammed inside a jet boat with the capacity to carry only 35. Once again, the boat nearly sank, but they managed to steer it back to Izmir. Worried about her children’s safety, Suleyman gave up her dreams of Greece, and decided to stay in Turkey. The health, safety and education for her children were her priorities, but she was starting from the scratch and needed help.

She got a temporary identification card with the help of local organizations and moved to a refugee camp outside Karkamis, is a town and district of Gaziantep Province in southeastern Turkey . However, she didn’t feel safe in the camp.

 “It was a tent camp that didn’t look like a place to live,” Suleyman recalled.

She returned to Gaziantep, where the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants, a local organization, helped her find a room in a shared home.

“One day while walking around with my neighbour, we passed the SADA Women-only Centre. There was a long queue outside, but I decided go in. Entering that door was the best decision!” recalls Suleyman.

Read the full story on UN Women's regional website for Europe and Central Asia.