• Begüm Başaran | Communications Assistant

Consider embarking on an exciting excursion across borders as a woman. Explore her one-of-a-kind journey as she travels through new locations, confronting problems and seizing opportunities. Learn about her ambitions and the fascinating goal that drives her pursuit. 

A myriad of factors drives people to move – searching for an enhanced quality of life, improved job prospects, access to better education and public services, or the desire for liberty and expression. 

Above all others, Leyla aspired to live a dignified life as a Syrian mother of seven. Today, she lives in Mardin, a province in southeast Türkiye, a cultural hub of the region due to its social and linguistic diversity. 

Compelled by the need for safety, respect, and freedom, Leyla had no choice but to abandon her home. 

Leyla faced electrical problems in her home, which risked endangering her children. Photo: IOM/Begüm Başaran

Though the first few days of her arrival were challenging, her eyes remain filled with joy as she describes the feeling of finally arriving in a safe place. 

“We were treated in a humane and dignified way once we got across the border. It's as if we regained our humanity in the wake of the harrowing events that occurred." 

Leyla has been living in Türkiye for a decade – the first five years in Şanlıurfa province along the Turkish-Syrian border. 

“We had no place to stay in the city when we arrived and were camping in the park area when an older adult couple passing by handed us the keys to their empty house, asking nothing in return. Following our settling in, an official from the neighbourhood came over and helped us with legal procedures, such as issuing ID cards and registering, and guided us to institutions where we could seek help,” recalled Leyla.  

“People in Şanlıurfa were very welcoming and kind,” she says. “As soon as we settled there, I built very good relationships, especially with my neighbours. They said that whatever I needed, they could help me with.”  

When asked how it is to live in Türkiye, she says: "It was difficult for me to overcome the social restrictions and expectations that came with being a woman before moving here. All my actions were portrayed as shameful, and I was constantly made to feel less than human. This is a place where I feel safe and free to go out, and no one is shaming or telling me not to do so." 

Leyla and her husband aim to provide an atmosphere of safety and stability for their children. Photo: IOM/Begüm Başaran

However, after five years in Şanlıurfa, negative discourse about migrants began to emerge, leading to stigma and discrimination. Moreover, difficulty finding a job drove her to settle in Kızıltepe, a rural area in Mardin. 

At the same time, her family was growing in size, and the house they moved into had an array of safety and hygiene issues. 

In collaboration with local authorities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Türkiye supported Leyla's family and repaired internal electrical wiring, replaced doors and windows, and insulated and repainted the family's home. 

"Afterwards, I felt happy and at ease. With the faulty electrical wiring, I was afraid my children would get shocked or get into an accident. Furthermore, the humidity was causing a foul odour, which has now been fixed." 

Leyla and her family unfortunately experienced the effects of the February 2023 earthquakes in the region, resulting in minor yet alarming damage to the walls of their house. In these trying times as everyone around her strives to recover, Leyla finds solace in the embracing and welcoming ambiance of her community. Today, Leyla looks to the future, expressing her hopes and dreams: “The most important thing to me is that I don't want to return to Syria for my children's sake. I must protect my children from what I experienced and ensure that they have a happy and stable future." 

IOM’s assistance to Leyla was made possible with the support of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

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