Turkey: home, not a halfway house for Syrian refugees

Turkey: home, not a halfway house for Syrian refugees
Comment: Many Syrians have found Turkey to be a reflection of their homeland, unlike those forced into camps in other countries, says Ghalia Shahin.
3 min read
21 Apr, 2015
Syrian refugees see a sense of their homeland in Syria [Anadolu]

In their four years of exodus Syrians were first physically removed from their homeland, and then emotionally.

There are approximately four million Syrians outside their country. Most most are in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. They dream of their Syrian homeland, as they do not have any alternatives given that pre-revolution Syria was much easier than the conditions they currently suffer.

However, the case might be different with those who headed to Turkish cities, especially those who were activists in the revolution.

With the passage of time and the growing complexity of the situation in Syria, the picture of the homeland slowly began to fade, only to be gradually replaced by the picture of an alternate homeland, which was described as temporary but is slowly shifting towards permanence.

Many activists describe Turkish cities, especially those close to the Syrian border, as resembling the Syrian cities in their aspired form.

Gaziantep resembles Aleppo and Reyhanli is the aspired Idlib countryside, while Antakya is reminiscent of the Syrian coast, but in a form desired by all Syrians. Even Istanbul reflects what Syrians want Damascus to be like.

There are many commonalities between Syria and Turkey and contribute to making the latter an alternate homeland for Syrians, such as the moderate Islamic nature of both societies, common social customs and common phrases shared by the two nations.

     Many activists describe Turkish cities as resembling the Syrian cities in their aspired form.

However, perhaps the most important commonality in the subconscious of Syrians is the name of the currency, the Lira, due to its impact on all aspects of life.

The large numbers of Syrians in Turkey, who have created communities complete with cultural, economic, social and recreational activities have lessened the feeling of alienation.

This has especially been the case with activists who have found communities that share their revolutionary ideas and aspirations, in addition to commonalities that they did not enjoy inside Syria, due to the difficulties of association and gathering before the revolution.

It is notable that many Syrians who had lived in Turkey and moved to Europe have a strong desire to return to Turkey.

It is as if their estrangement from their homeland started once they set foot in Europe, while being in Turkey did not feel so alien.

Many appear keen to return to Turkey after gaining residency in European countries. Turkey represents a homeland that is achievable, and somewhere where they can continue to live in a manner similar to Syria.

A return to Turkey represents an attempt to reconnect with all that is Syrian through being closer to the homeland, its cultural mannerisms and its emotional affinity.

The loss of a homeland and fact that there is little hope of regaining it has pushed many in search for an alternative that reflects the original.

For many, that place is now Turkey.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.