C4SSA

The Generosity of Syrian Refugees

Experiences shape and mold your worldview. To experience these truths first-hand provides a perspective no media outlet, social media platform, TV or radio program can bring. It’s no surprise, then, that so many born in and living in the United States that have not had the opportunity to travel abroad might be remiss to the atrocity that has struck the Syrian people and the Syrian diaspora the world over. A genocide in the 21st century is the closest way to describe this decade of pain and suffering and as one Syrian refugee recently told me, “a holocaust.” 

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Turkey where I met with several Syrian refugees and heard first-hand stories that are chilling to the core. While the pain and suffering these human beings have experienced is immense, they’ve somehow been able to maintain their kindness and optimism for the future and the warmth and hospitality was truly moving. 

A few days In Hatay, which borders Syria to the south and east, with several Syrian refugee families left a lasting impression on me. They delicious food, hospitality, and warmth reminded me of my own relatives who originated from Iran. The stories of how they arrived in Turkey from Syria were also similar; the only difference being the brutality they escaped continues in their homeland to this day.

We were greeted with warm hugs and kisses. This was the family home of the aunt and uncle of our friend Kalid. Once we settled in, the conversation started and soon after the food started to flow.

“We run from Assad,” said the male head of the household at their family home in Hatay in a town called Reyhanli.

They fled Syria in 2011, one year into the Syrian civil uprising. He explained that just two days after he and his family fled Syria for Turkey, Assad government forces broke the door to their home in Idlib, entered and were looking for him to take him to prison. Luckily, they were not there. They have been in their home in Hatay from that day. Asked if he wants to return to Syria, his home, he said, “when Assad goes.” He implored President Joe Biden for help but said he still believes that while every president promises to help the Syrian people, once they arrive at the chair, they forget the Syrian people or do the opposite of what they promised.

Each member of their household had a similar story. They long to return to their home. But they said this won’t be possible under the current leadership.

Lunch was served and it was a feast.




The sourcing for these blessed meals, however, is not the same as what we are used to in America. While there are supermarkets, nearby on the weekend, it is the open-air market that is the main draw of Syrians living in the neighborhood.




People of all sizes and ages are working or walking the market and the color and variety of fresh and local produce and spices awakens the senses. This is the main source of income for the majority of people working the market. Donated clothing – likely from relatives or friends from abroad – are also for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, we ventured about an hour away by car to a seaside town. There, we dined on more delicious confections. A mouth-watering brunch spread. And then tea and sweets.

Baklava, sundried fruits and figs stuffed with honey-drenched walnuts for dessert. Remember what I said about not letting anything go to waste. Well, among other treats, we had sweet candied eggplants stuffed with walnuts among the dessert confections.

The circumstances have taught these refugees to let nothing go to waste. And every blessing, no matter how great or small, does not go without appreciation. I’m quite creative myself and learned a few clever and innovative tricks from my new friends.

This was followed by a walk by the beach in a town called Arsuz. My friend expressed interest in purchasing property there so we looked at several pieces of real estate. Expect the market prices to increase in that area in the coming years.

 

 

 

 

 

 




In one part, a lone-standing café built from wood and bamboo, with very natural sand and dirt floors is a well-known stop the locals. The owner – a Syrian refugee himself — was proud of the establishment he built. Hand-made and sustained with love. A dog happily greeted customers and passersby. It was their own paradise.

On the drive back to my friend’s relative’s home, we passed a Syrian refugee camp that houses about 150,000 Syrian refugees. The images were difficult to process. A Turkish border security guard was on watch the entire time to ensure no one crossed over illegally, which of course occurs often. Many have lost their lives trying to make that journey. Still, Turkey has been a saving grace for so many who would have been left for dead in Syria or in one of Assad’s prisons.

 

 

 

 

The owner offered me tea and was very gracious. After speaking with him for a few minutes he conveyed to me that the dream of returning to their home in Syria beckons. And it will continue to.

 

The view was grim and a stark contrast with the sea we had just departed from.

We returned back to the home and had another fantastic dinner before heading back to the airport for Istanbul with our hearts and stomachs full.

 

 

 

The time with these beautiful families was short, but the impact and experience will last for a lifetime. Having seen and experienced their stories first-hand, I am even more strengthened in my convictions to seeing that a free and democratic Syria will come to fruition in our lifetime.

The time with these beautiful families was short, but the impact and experience will last for a lifetime. Having seen and experienced their stories first-hand, I am even more strengthened in my convictions to seeing that a free and democratic Syria will come to fruition in our lifetime.

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