While Turkey is popular for its many breathtaking tourist attractions, it is also known for opening its borders to a large number of refugees into their country. Turkey is the host to the world’s largest refugee population since 2014. According to UNHCR, there are 3.6 million Syrians under temporary protection and more than 330,000 refugees and asylum seekers under international protection in Turkey. In certain parts of the country, the number of refugees living in the area even exceeds the number of locals. Its geographical location has resulted in a refugee exodus from the harrowing conflict in its neighbouring country, Syria - where both countries share more than 800 kilometres of its borders.
At the end of November 2021, our Global Ehsan Relief team managed to personally visit Kahramanmaraş, previously known as Marash, the capital city of the Kahramanmaraş province in Southeastern Turkey. Together with our partners from Hayrat Aid Foundation, our team travelled to the ‘Container City’ or officially known as the Temporary Accommodation Centre. The city has more than 5,000 containers capable of housing 25,000 people.
In contrast with the camps our team saw in Lebanon and Jordan where the refugees lived in tents, here they lived in repurposed shipping containers. Fitted in two-container-high blocks, each of the accommodation units houses up to five family members and is equipped with a bedroom, kitchen and running water. The container city has all the necessary facilities such as a mosque, clinic, school, water filtering stations and even a jail. However the container in itself is a reminder that these “box cities are meant to be a provisional fix to a gigantic exodus.”
When we arrived, the children were intrigued by our presence and started crowding near us. Together with our partners and their volunteers, we swiftly started packing hot meal packets consisting of bread with meat, salad and baklava which were then to be distributed to the refugees. In total we packed 500 cooked meals outside the masjid, and then personally served them to the Syrian refugee children waiting in the praying areas. We saw first-hand how excited they were to receive fresh, hot meals and how they were rushing for the clean bottled water.
During our visit, we met the Imam of the mosque who is also the Manager of the Quran course, Ustaz Yasin Ali. Originating from Syria, Ustaz Yasin has been living in Turkey for the past nine years. He shared with us how he had previously graduated from Al-Azhar University and completed his Masters in Beirut. Now, Ustaz Yasin is spearheading the Quran course in the container city as well as being the Imam of the mosque located there. During the course of our brief conversation, Ustaz Yasin told our team that there are 550 children doing the Tahfiz programme in the masjid, Alhamdulillah.
We could see the gratitude in his eyes when he expressed to us that the children are always waiting for the aid such as the one we had given out that day. He added that the children are always awaiting for any form of happiness - and our presence has been one form of happiness for the children. Personally, we saw for ourselves how the cooked meals and water as well as our presence had brought a smile to their faces and we were equally blessed to have shared that happiness with the children.
Just before our team left the container city, Ustaz Yasin made dua for us, where he asked Allah s.w.t to bless us with peace and happiness for our country and also theirs.
It takes a small amount of effort from us to lend a helping hand and create a big impact on the lives of these refugees. Personally, we saw how much our aid is helping them and we want to continue the good that we as a community are able to do together.
Join us in our intentions and efforts in providing a happier and comfortable standard of living to our brothers and sisters living in harsh conditions.