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Press Centre (11/2014)

Syrian and Turkish Kids are developing projects for their own rights

Syrian and Turkish children come together the 'Social Adaptation and Cohabitation Training' in Ankara. @UNICEF/Turkey 2014/Yurtsever
ANKARA, Turkey, November 2014 – It is clear the group of Syrian and Turkish children gathered for training in Ankara already know a lot about their subject. Fingers rise swiftly in response to the first question about child rights. 

One of the Syrian students sitting in the front rows and raising her hand enthusiastically is Aysha. She lists child rights to the best of her knowledge: learning, playing, resting, living healthily and living in security in a safe country.

Aysha is just one of the many Syrian and Turkish students who have met in Ankara to attend  the ‘Social Adaptation and Cohabitation Training’ held within the scope of ‘The Training Stage of the Project Developed to reach Syrian Children Who Live out of the Camps through Child Rights Committees’ project. The training, which is the follow-up of the first meeting held last July with the collaboration of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and UNICEF, has been attended by a total of 40 students—20 Turkish and 20 Syrian.

Aysha Fattal, 14, came to Ankara from Kahramanmaraş for the training with her teachers. Aysha came to Turkey from Aleppo two years ago due to the fighting. The 7th grader’s favorite subjects are math and science. She wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up, but in the meantime she wants to help her friends understand their rights as children.

She said, “I would like to help my friends as a trainer and do good things for them after this training. I can help my Syrian friends who cannot speak Turkish. If they are successful, it will make me happy. I would really like to teach them about child rights.”

Burak is from Şanlıurfa, and is a student from the Turkish contingent. The 17-year-old told the conference that he has worked with the Child Rights Committee for five years and was elected to the Advisory Committee two years ago, helping solve the problems of education, accommodation and nutrition of Syrian children. He hopes the training will mean their work can be extended to other cities.
Child labor and accommodation problems  

“I visited camps many times,” said Burak. “War is engraved in the subconscious of even the very little children. They have become a little aggressive and so institutions are carrying out psychosocial support activities, including UNICEF and their Child Friendly Spaces and our friends from Child Rights Committee of Turkey. I also see child workers outside of the camps very often. Children are forced to work under harsh conditions for very little money. Accommodation is another significant problem.”

The training was opened with the participation of the representatives from the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and UNICEF.

Severine Jacomy Vite, the Chief of Child Protection Unit of UNICEF Turkey, emphasized on the right of children to participate in the decision making processes. He said, “UNICEF is an organization that protects children no matter where they are and brings children together from different cultures to have different experiences together. With this training study groups shall be formed and Syrian and Turkish children shall be provided with the opportunity to develop projects together.”
Ahmet Okur, the Deputy General Director for Child Services of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies made special mention of the Convention on Child Rights for Turkey.
Okur also said that while his ministry had been providing activities inside the camps, their attention will now turn to urban refugees. He said, “It is an obvious necessity now to carry out activities outside the camps.  In this context, we have been working on some projects for children who came from Syria starting with a few cities of Turkey. For this reason, the outputs of this training will be a guiding light for us”.

Story and photos by Ayberk Yurtsever
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org