Fatima’s story is one of loss, courage, and willpower. She had to flee the war in Syria and came to Turkey in search of safety. As she left her country, she also left her beloved profession. One day, she received a phone call that gave her new hope.
Istanbul is a city almost 16 million people call home, including more than 530,000 Syrians who fled the ongoing conflict in their home country.
Fatima is one of them. The 48-year-old Syrian from Aleppo city studied English at university and turned her passion into a profession. Fatima worked as an English teacher and translator. Then, the year 2013 changed her life abruptly.
"I have no family, my life is teaching English,” says Fatima. “But suddenly there is war in Syria. I was faced with a very difficult decision: should I stay in the war or leave and start from zero?"
Fatima left her home in search of safety.
Due to years-long displacement and limited access to the job market, many refugees in Turkey live under challenging and often precarious circumstances. The cost of living and lack of access to a regular income makes it difficult for many vulnerable families to even meet their most basic needs.
In the first months and years in Istanbul, Fatima tried in vain to get help. She needed a permanent job so she could apply for a work permit and residency in Istanbul - the first step towards her dream.
One day, a friend told her about a German organisation that could support her, and she called.
This organisation, Welthungerhilfe, supports 8,000 refugees in Turkey thanks to humanitarian funding from European Union.
Their project helps refugees access legal, social and welfare services, and supports them with issues related to work permits.
“I explained my situation and the difficulties I had in getting a work permit and finding a permanent job. They decided to follow up on my case and refer me to a job as soon as an opportunity arose. It was the first time that someone listened to me and took my situation seriously,” explains Fatima.
“I am really glad for this opportunity,” says Fatima. She is now working at a café and has regained her independence. © Welthungerhilfe 2021
Almost a year later, the longed-for call came. The municipality of Şişli, a district of Istanbul located on the European side of the city, was launching a project for Syrian refugees with a passion for cooking to serve customers in a small café.
"I applied right away. Yes, it has nothing to do with the English language, but it’s a job that I like to do. Cooking is one of my hobbies. I am really glad for this opportunity," Fatima explains while she is pouring another cup of tea.
2 months ago, Fatima finally received her work permit and residency in Istanbul.
Fatima has received her work permit and continues to pursue her dream of teaching English again. © Welthungerhilfe 2021
"The moment I was granted the work permit, I called my caseworker and told her the good news. I am so happy that I can find work now. My goal is still to work as an English teacher or interpreter. Any job where I can speak English. I can work, I will work and I will realise my dream", she says with a big smile.
Story by Welthungerhilfe.
Main picture: Fatima describes herself as a freedom-loving, independent, but also traditional woman. © Welthungerhilfe, 2021
Publication date: 01/12/2021