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Press Centre (3/2014)

Listen Syrian children's stories

ANTAKYA, Turkey, March 2014 – While the conflict in Syria passes 3 years away, children lives has been changing in a dramatic way. Since the day conflict started, 5,5 million children affected, more than 10.000 children have been killed, around 8.000 children have crossed borders without any relatives and fled to other countries in the region.
Turkey is one of the host country which welcomes more than 900.000 Syrian people, half of this amount are children.
Now, let’s listen their stories from them.

Safi: “I’m not afraid of airplanes, I’m afraid of wild animals”
“I’m from Latakia. I’m nine years old. I’m a second grade student. My favorite subject at school is spelling. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. When I wake up in the morning, I wash my hands and face first, and then I brush my hair. I go to school at 8 o’clock and I do my homework in the afternoon. Later, I play games in the big park and in the evening I have dinner. I like football — I’m a fan of FC Barcelona. I have two sisters and a brother, but I’m the eldest.
My school in Syria closed because of the war. An airplane dropped a barrel bomb on our school. The poorest people ran away after the bomb, which shattered all the windows in our house. I was hurt when they dropped another bomb. I got shrapnel fragments in my face and back. Someone from our village was going to take me to the hospital, but we couldn’t go because it was too far away from Latakia and it would take a lot of time. I still have some shrapnel in my back, but I wasn’t afraid at those moments at all. I didn’t feel anything. 
I’m not afraid of airplanes. I am afraid of bears, dogs and wild animals.
Syria is more beautiful than here. I miss our house the most. I miss everything there.
I want to save people from oppression. I want to become a doctor and I want to help people who are affected by the war and to save their lives. My third wish is to help thieves to persuade them not to steal.
I have a friend. I love him so much, but I can’t remember his name. Some of my friends are frightened of me because of the scar on my face. They don’t want to play with me.”
According to his teacher, he will have another operation in 20 days with the help of Kuwaiti benefactors. 

Mohammed: “I am happy, because there aren’t any airplanes here”
Mohammed is just six years old. He came to Turkey from a village near Aleppo almost a month ago. He lives with his mother and four siblings in a room in Antakya. His father stayed in Syria after he was hit in the head by shrapnel. As a result, he has difficulty with his memory. Mohammed hasn’t gone to school yet; neither in Syria nor in Turkey. According to his mother, the war has affected him the most among her children. He wrings his hands tightly and prefers to keep quietly to himself. His biggest fear is airplanes. “I am happy, because there aren’t any airplanes here. I’m not scared when I go to bed now. I miss my dad the most in Syria. I want to become a doctor in the future.”

Büşra: “I miss our house and my clothes the most. And my friends...”
Büşra is also siblings and her uncle’s family. Büşra is the oldest of all the children in her family, but just like the others, she has never gone to school. “We usually go to the park with my brothers and sisters and play games from Aleppo. She is nine years old. After a challenging journey that left her waiting for four days to cross the border, she arrived in Turkey one month ago. She lives in a single room in Antakya with her mother, father, seven together. I want to become a nurse when I grow up. I miss our house, my things and my clothes the most. And my friends...”  

Mecit: “I’m afraid of missiles the most”
Büşra’s brother Mecit is seven years old. He has never had the chance to go to school. He says, “I’m afraid of missiles the most. They were making so much noise. It’s beautiful and quiet here. We always play games with my sisters, brothers and friends.”


 Fethiye: “I wish children were not touched by wars”
“I’m from Aleppo. I am seven years old. I am a second grade student at primary school. I have three siblings. My favorite subject is maths. I want to become a teacher when I grow up. Our house in Syria was very beautiful. I miss our furniture and my bed. I had a lot of toys, I miss them so much too. I was afraid of missiles and barrel bombs the most. I am comfortable here, and I’m not afraid of anything. I wish everything went smoothly and the houses weren’t destroyed. I wish children were not touched by wars.”

Ala, a girl who reads poetry at the camp 
13-year-old Ala Housyno is from Latakia. She is the youngest of six siblings. One of her brothers is in Syria, and the other one, traumatized by the conflict, is here at the camp along with two of her sisters. Another sister is still in Syria. Ala has been in Turkey for a year and a half. They first arrived in Şarnlıurfa before moving to the Altınözü camp in Hatay.
Here’s what Ala says:
“We left our village to escape the bombing, but the new place was also dangerous so we left there too. We drove for three hours to get close to the border and once night fell we walked for another three hours to cross into Turkey. There were many checkpoints on the way. I saw people carrying guns, so I was scared. At the end of the third hour, we arrived in a Turkish village I didn’t know. Turkish soldiers met us on the border and they took us to the camp in Şanlıurfa. We stayed there for 15 days. Then we left Şanlıurfa and came here, Altınözü and we’ve been here for 16 months.
“Someone gave us a house for free and my sisters and I have been staying here at nights, but my parents stay at the camp all the time. The owner of the house will be getting married soon, so we will have to go back to the camp.
“I miss my friends and my home. Unfortunately, it was destroyed. I miss my home and my village very much. 
“If I were president, I would first ensure the security of my people. I would help the children harmed by the conflict. The children living in the camps on the other side of the border — the camps in Syria — are starving. I would help them. What I want myself is to grow up to be a doctor. One more thing… I would love to see İstanbul.
“My school is so beautiful. I am in the 8th grade. Our courses are taught in Turkish and Arabic. My favourite subjects are Maths and Turkish Language. I love the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. I read all his poems. 
“I go to school at 8am, without eating breakfast. Around noon, when school is over and I come back home and have lunch. Then, I go to the Child Friendly Space and stay there until 4pm. I like games and competitions, but I’ve never won. After play-time, I eat dinner and study. Finally, I watch some TV and go to sleep.”

Ghader: “I would help the children, because they are our future” 
“I want to grow up to be pediatrician, because I love children.”
This is what 13-year-old Ghader Abdullah from Idlib says. The 7th grader’s favourite subject is maths. She is the eldest of four sisters and a brother. She lives with her family in the Altınözü camp in Hatay.
Ghader says:
“Our village was under heavy bombardment and sadly, we lost our uncle. We set out in the evening to cross the border to Turkey. It took us four hours to get there although it used to be a one-hour trip. We met my uncle at the border and he brought us to Altınözü. At first, we stayed at the camp as visitors. Later, we rented a house outside the camp before we moved into my uncle’s tent, and after staying with them for a while, the administration gave us our own tent. 
“The most frightening thing in Syria was the sound of the rockets at night. We were so afraid of the guided missiles. Our house was half destroyed. I miss my home, my teachers, my friends and my relatives, but I am happy here. 
“If I were the leader, I wouldn’t persecute my own people, I would help them. Above all, I would help the little children, because they are our future. I would think before I act. I would advise my people to guide them to the right direction. 
“I love the leadership, volunteering and planning classes we have in the Child Friendly Space. They teach us very good things, and we need to put what we learn into practice. They give us examples for inspiration and then ask us to work on it. It helps foster our creativity. I also like drawing pictures — especially pictures of nature.”
Said: “What I like most about the Camp is the activities in the Child Friendly Space”
It’s been three years since 9-year-old Said came to Boynuyoğun Camp in Hatay. He is from Idlib. He started going to school for the first time at this camp and is now in the third grade. His favourite subject is Arabic. Like many of his friends and peers, he wants to be a doctor. He says they were deeply moved by all the wounded people they saw. They dream of helping the sick and wounded people when they grow up to be doctors. But Said says it is not the war he fears, it is dogs. What he likes most about the camp is going to the Child Friendly Space and taking part in the activities with his friends. His favourite activity is solving puzzles.

To read more human interest stories: http://unicef.org.tr/sayfa.aspx?id=76&mnid=118&dil=en&d=1

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