Story of Syrians - Maher family

The Maher family come from Aleppo and are of Kurdish origin. They fled the city because of the increasing violence and very difficult living conditions. After staying out in the country and fearing extremist Islam militia they fled Syria and settled in Turkey.

Istanbul, November 2014

Mohammed, Soulin and their four children have already been trying to manage for eight months in the city of Istanbul. Mohammed makes clothes in a small workshop employing Syrians.

Mohammed: "My salary is not as high as it would be for a Turk. Syrians can find work, like me, but are underpaid. I, for example, earn 800 Turkish lira (around 300 euro) whereas a Turk would earn 2,000 lira for the same work (around 700 euro). Furthermore living in Istanbul is very costly and we have to buy everything we need with less money.”

They have been living for a few months in an apartment that they have to share with two other people. "It's the only way we can manage", explains Soulin. "The difference between the 1,000 Turkish lira rent and what a refugee earns is too big. Therefore we have no choice but to share an apartment with other people who work. But this apartment is certainly not worth that much rent. For example there is no central heating and we have had to buy extra heating apparatus. These are places where the Turks don't want to live anymore.”

Soulin had also started working in the same workshop as her husband but then had to stay at home to care for her children who are in poor health.

Soulin: "One of my daughters has heart problems and needs to go to hospital regularly. My daughters and I have all suffered severely from the cold and still have pains in our joints to this day.  Two of my children have serious problems with their sight. For some children an operation is required.”

The children have not been to school since we have become refugees. The two oldest (aged 7 and 11) have not had lessons for a year and a half -  the two youngest children were still too young at that time. The two oldest speak and write Arabic, but also know the English alphabet and can speak a few words of English.

Just like the other refugees the Maher family are relieved that their children can go back to school or start school in Belgium. The priority however will be the most urgent health issues. The Maher family are already looking forward to seeing relatives in Germany once they are settled.