For Rehaf, life was full of difficulties, even before the war in Syria started. At the age of 15, she was married off. “There was no war then, but my life was always a war, always difficult,” says Rehaf. “I was a child. My husband was 13 years older than me. I was not happy at all.”
There was no peace in their house. When she remembers those days, her face turns sombre. “I accept those years as if I didn't live them,” she explains. “But what I've been through has made me stronger. If it wasn't for these things, maybe I wouldn't have come here. I feel strong. I don't regret it. We were living under very difficult conditions in Syria.”
During the war in Syria, she lost several family members in bomb attacks. She decided to leave her hometown, Aleppo, when a bomb hit right in front of her house.
Thankfully, nothing happened to her daughters, but Rehaf realised that she had no choice but to leave home searching for a better and safer life for her children. So Rehaf divorced her husband and took her daughters to Istanbul.
Starting a new life in Turkey
The struggles didn’t stop when she reached Turkey. Being a single parent in a foreign country and providing for her daughters was not easy for Rehaf.
She worked in stores and restaurants, trying to keep her family afloat despite the economic hardships. During that time, Rehaf started feeling stressed, trying to cope with the changes she was going through.
She realised that she needed help, which she found in psychosocial support she received through an EU-funded project run by GIZ in cooperation with ‘Alliance of International Doctors’.
Rehaf’s experience is a reality for many of the 4 million refugees in Turkey. Some 3.7 million are Syrians who fled the war which has been ravaging the country for more than 10 years.
EU-funded humanitarian projects in Turkey support refugees like Rehaf in accessing essential services like protection, specialised health, education and meeting their basic needs.
“I benefited a lot from the problem-solving seminar. One by one, I think about the causes of the problem, its history and what I should do,” Rehaf explains how the psychosocial support sessions have helped her through difficult times.
“Whenever I encounter a problem, I remember the tutorial and apply it. The breathing exercises have been very helpful for me. This is how I learned to heal myself,” she says.
Slowly, things started taking a turn for the better. Rehaf was granted a university scholarship and now, she is learning Turkish. She met and married a Syrian man who cares for and respects her and her daughters.
“Living without depending on anyone is very valuable to me,” says Rehaf. “My life now is much better than before. I struggled a lot so that my daughters wouldn’t experience what I had experienced.”
Rehaf’s wish is for her daughters to be independent: “My girls shouldn't be like me. I want them to complete their education and make their own decisions. Whatever they want to be, I will always support them, I will be by their side.”
Today, Rehaf is a mother of 4 daughters, living in a happy and peaceful home, and she is pregnant with another baby girl.
There is one ritual Rehaf still repeats every day to keep her motivation up, and to remind herself that she is a strong, independent woman. When she wakes up, she says to herself: “Every breath we take in this life has a reason. Nothing is impossible. As long as life goes on, there is no space for giving up. If today was good, tomorrow will be even better.”
Story by Bahar Bakir Yurdakul, Information and Communication Assistant, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Publication date: 08/03/2022